A tiger and a leopard are reportedly on the prowl at Erattayar and Vathikudy panchayats in Idukki, triggering panic among residents.
According to local residents, leopards have been creating panic at Vathikudy for the past week. On Saturday, a youth reportedly spotted a leopard at Murickassery under the panchayat. In the past several days, wild animals have killed cattle in the region. Pugmarks of a leopard were spotted at School City and at Senapathi in Murickassery.
According to the residents, another set of pugmarks belonging to a tiger or a leopard were found at Idinjamala and Adayalakkallu under Erattayar panchayat. On Friday, a tiger was spotted at Adayalakkallu in the area. However, the Forest department was yet to confirm the presence of the tiger in the region.
A joint action council staged a road blockade on the Adyala Kallu-Erattayar road, near Kattappana, on Friday demanding action to capture the wild animal. Another joint action council blockaded the Vathikudy panchayat office on Friday.
Idukki Land Freedom Movement (ILFM) general convener Rasak Chooravelil alleged that it is suspected that the Forest department had “intentionally released” tigers and leopards into human habitats to trigger panic among the residents. “The reality is that there is no presence of tigers or leopards in the nearby Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary. But, unfortunately, Forest department officials have not given a satisfactory answer about the presence of wild cats in human habitats,” said Mr. Chooravelil.
Responding to the allegations, Kottayam Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) N. Rajesh said it is suspected that the leopard accidentally strayed into the human habitats. “Leopards were sighted at various human habitats on the border forests too. The allegations raised by protesters are baseless,” he said.
Mr. Rajesh said the Forest department has installed 10 camera traps at Vathikudy and Erattayar panchayats. “The department cannot confirm the presence of any tiger or leopard in the two panchayats yet. Therefore, a request has been sent to the Chief Wildlife Warden seeking to fix a trap cage at Vathikudy,” he said.
The ILFM consists of various traders’ associations, 22 farmers’ groups, and several religious and community organisations in Idukki.
In December, a tiger was found dead in a pond on cardamom plantation at a human habitat at Vazhavara near Kattappana.