“The villagers took a huge risk since a hungry leopard is no match for an unarmed crowd going by recent incidents where leopards had attacked injuring or killing people in broad daylight."
Deep in the Himbiliyakada forest reserve is a small and remote hamlet with five families. This is Irriyagaha. The road leading to the hamlet is a long, lonely and desolate stretch once it leaves the last vestiges of human habitation several kilometers back. The gravel road winds up and through the hills hemmed in on both sides by thick forests. Even a full moon struggles to shed light on this dark and lonely road in the night due to the thick canopy that arches overhead. These forests are the haunts of many jungle denizens including the prowling and illusive leopard, the shuffling sloth bear considered the most feared animal in the jungle, and the majestic and stately elephant.
Inside these thickly forested hills is Irriyagaha
The remote and desolate road leading to Irriyagaha
On November 20th around 1 am a leopard had arrived at the sleepy little hamlet and targeted a pregnant cow that belonged to a villager named Karu. The cow was tied when the attack happened. Going by the signs the cow had probably sensed the leopard before it attacked and was in an agitated state as evidenced by the churned up ground by where she was tethered.
As the leopard launched its’ attack the cow had broken off the rope and run towards Karu’s home dragging the leopard along. Just as she reached the small creek by Karu’s home the leopard had managed to get a strangle hold on the cow’s neck and killed her. By the size of the dead cow and the signs left behind it can be assumed that it was a very large leopard most probably a male. We have remote cameras stationed in the adjacent forests and have recorded the presence of several large male leopards in these forests.
Karu and his family were not home that night. The few neighbors heard the commotion but were frightened to come out since in the dead of night there is no way of knowing what is happening in the dark. Once a sufficient number of them had gathered to boost up their courage and they had enough flashlights to investigate, they had ventured out shouting and making noise to ward off whatever wild beast that was out there.
Following the signs on the ground they followed in the direction where the cow had run. The villagers took a huge risk since a hungry leopard is no match for an unarmed crowd going by recent incidents where leopards had attacked injuring or killing people in broad daylight.
It is interesting that this past May we had a young female leopard prey on five calves during a 6 weeks period belonging to a farmer who lived just north of Karu’s. We managed to get photos of the leopardess by setting up cameras by her last kill. And then just as suddenly the killings stopped. We compensated this farmer by giving him a heifer (https://madmimi.com/s/69148e).
Due to the close proximity of the dead cow to the village homes it was not advisable to keep the carcass to set up remote cameras. The villagers planned to bury the carcass to discourage the leopard from coming back.
The young female leopard that was responsible for a spate of calf killings
When Karu and his family arrived later in the morning and heard the news he was naturally very unhappy and sorrowful of his double loss since the cow was pregnant and it was more of a pet than a farm animal. The SLWCS has committed to provide him with cow on the understanding that he will not take measures to seek retribution from the leopard.
Trying to maintain this tenuous balance where people are willing to coexist with wild animals is one of the biggest challenges the SLWCS faces every day! You can support our efforts by visiting our website at: www.slwcs.org
There is never a dull moment in Wasgamuwa.
Karu with the broken rope by the tree where he last tethered his cow
The broken rope
The signs of struggle as the cow tried to escape the leopard
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