September 18, 2017 07:28 AM NPT
By: Bira Gadal
This file photo shows a leopard in the capital. Leopards have been causing widespread menace in some villages of Baitadi district since the last few years.
BAITADI, Sept 18: A four-year-old girl of Udaydev village in Baitadi suddenly went missing in September last year. After rigorous search, the family found her dead body around 800 meters away from her home near Ratyal River. Her head was severed.
Another girl, aged just seven, also went missing the same way. Her body was also found in an equally appalling condition. Later, it was confirmed that both the deaths were due to leopard attacks.
In the last six years, 21 children have been killed by leopard(s) in Melauli Municipality alone which comprises of villages like Udaydev, Bishalpur, Aamchaura, Giregada, Pancheswor, Kulab, Shivanath and Mahakali among others. The death record of adults during the same period is two.
Leopard terror is still prevalent in Baitadi. This has taken toll in people’s social and personal life. And a solution is not at sight, people lament.
“This kind of attack has been regular since the last six years. It started in 2011,” stated Jasudevi Saud of Shivanath Rural Municipality -4. “In 2011, a leopard had killed a little girl. After that, it begun to attack people in the gap of three to four months,” she added.
Leopards used to be sighted in human settlements sporadically even before the attacks. But, they could be shooed away. It seems that their population has grown of late. Or, perhaps they are coming to human settlements due to some other reasons, locals say. They expressed their concern that the beasts are growingly becoming aggressive toward humans.
“We close the doors and windows before dusk. We never know when will we be under attack, when will a leopard take away our children,” Saud added. “We are living under constant terror,” states Mahesh Bhatta, a local of Melauli Municipality - 9. “Leopard menace is so serious that they enter our houses, snatch our children and take them away. They are simply not afraid of humans,” he added.
According to Bhatta, their life has been so much disturbed due to the beasts that they finish their work early and get back home because of the fear. Even when there is some emergency, they hesitate to step out of their home early in the morning and in the evening.
“This place wears a deserted look as soon as the sun sets. Everyone is at home,” he said. “Rather than adults, we worry about the safety of our children. We cannot keep them alone at home,” he added.
Locals demand solution
Mahesh Bhatta’s neighbor Lokmani Bhatta stressed the need for the government’s intervention in this matter. Either the locals must think of resettlement or the authority must find some solution to the menace caused by the wild animals, he demanded.
“We cannot live in such a fearful environment all the time. We cannot afford to lose our children to the animals again and again,” he said. “Our life is devastated due to the fear,” he added.
In the last one year, leopard attacks have left many people injured in Baitadi. However, they were not killed in the attacks. “There has been no death in the last one year. However, there have been massive attacks,” informed Lokmani.
Police keep vigil in the sensitive areas. Since the last six months, the vigilance has been made even wider. Last month, Kundadevi Bhatta of Asur village was severely injured due to leopard attack. Following that, the Armed Police Force was also deployed in the area.
Locals of the most vulnerable VDCs have already held meetings with the concerned authorities several times. They have sought for a concrete, lasting solution to the problem. “The problem is even intense during summer. We become kind of imprisoned at home sometimes due to the attack of the wild animals,” said Lokmani. “This has paralyzed our life,” he added.
No matter how many times leopards have attacked humans, the beasts have never been tamed. Even the team deployed by the government has not been able to tranquilize the leopards of Baitadi. “They have been so elusive that even the security forces have not found them. They are quick to run away,” Lokmani reported.
The forest office organizes awareness programs in coordination with the local schools in order to enhance safety of the children. Students are told to walk in groups, avoid dangerous routes and so on.
“However, those kinds of programs are not going to work until and unless we do something very serious to keep the animals away from here. Or, we must resettle somewhere else,” Lokmani remarked.
A huge range of forest land of Baitadi has been encroached upon by humans in the last few years. Environmentalists have long warned unchecked deforestation in and around the district.