Leopard enters school
Phillaur, January 24
He was spotted by a peon and a student of the school at about 8.15 a.m., Less than 15 students were in the building at that time. The leopard kept moving from one room to the other before it jumped from the roof and disappeared for more than 15 minutes.
He was later tracked hiding under a bush in an open space of a house behind the school. He was shot at by the policemen, who used AK-47, and SLR besides .303 guns.
The bullets had pierced through its body as none were found during the post-mortem examination conducted at the Division Forest Office, Phillaur. There were four bullet wounds in the body.
It could have been saved and caught alive if there was a better crisis management done by the police and the state Wildlife Department.
The leopard could have been easily locked in the school room, but this was not done.
Though a tranquiliser gun was available less than 10 km away at the tiger safari near Amaltas, the police opted to catch him on its own and subsequently killed it after taking permission over the phone from the state Wildlife Department. Though wildlife officials were present during the controversial operation, no one was an expert in catching wild animals.
The leopard had probably strayed in to the thickly populated area in search of food after its natural habitat in the Shivalik hills was engulfed with snow in the past few days. Wildlife experts suggest that he could have travelled along the Sutlej before venturing in to the town.
There was no sign that the leopard was a man-eater and its attack on policemen seemed to be a panic reaction. He entered the school sometime during the night through an open door in an under-construction portion of the school. From there it went to the first floor and settled in a room.
Though a peon of the school was sleeping in the room from which it entered the building, the leopard passed quietly from near the peon’s cot.
He did not attack the school staff or students. Sapna, a class X student of the school and daughter of a peon, Ashok Kumar, who lives on the school premises, told The Tribune that she and her aunt Kashmiro had gone to the room at about 8.15 a.m. when they were shocked at the sight of the leopard.
“My aunt cleans the room daily at this hour and I always accompany her to keep my bag,” she said. Initially they thought it was a big cat but when Ashok Kumar threw a stick at it and it jumped out of the room they saw its size and shouted that it was a leopard.
The leopard, however, seemed in no mood to leave the school premises. Dr Rajinder Passi, general secretary of the school management, and the policemen reached the school immediately and cordoned off the area. The main gate of the school was closed and students told to go home.
According to Bhajan Lal, one of the three injured policemen, the leopard could have been caught alive if it had not attacked them. He along with constables Sanjay Kumar and Sohan Lal suffered injuries on their arms and heads.
The three were being praised for their bravery. Sanjay Kumar had even grappled with the wild animal. He also fired at him but missed.
Mr A.C. Dogra, Chief Wildlife Warden, Punjab, confirmed that his permission was taken over the phone.