DNA Correspondent: Wednesday, May 16, 2012.
In an incident that will raise several eyebrows, a leopard was run over by a truck in Little Rann of Kutch (LRK) late on Monday night.
The incident that happened near Kharagoda in Bajana Range of LRK is astonishing because leopards are not known to wander in that area.
The region is part of The Wild Ass Sanctuary and the closest known leopard habitat is about 100 km from the spot where the wild animal was found dead.
Forest officials claim the death is an accident as the animal must have come in the way of a truck ferrying salt through the Rann from the salt pans located in the desert. "The accident does not seem to be a case of foulplay but we are inquiring into incident," said a superintendent with The Wild Ass Sanctuary.
However, a leopard was spotted near Patadi a year back and two years ago, a death was reported from the same region, Chaudhary added.
The leopard census of 2011 puts their population at 1,160 in Gujarat.About one-third of them counted were in the 14 protected areas of the state. The animals are mostly in the wooded areas and their presence in the desert is almost unheard of.
Senior forest officer HS Singh believes the leopard would have strayed into the area from Jessore side in search of prey.
"Spotting a leopard in Rann is rare. Once it is out of its known territory, it loses track of direction and strays on. This one too seems to have drifted in a similar fashion. We are investigating the death," said Singh.
Observers in the region, however, are skeptical about the incident being an accidental death. Pervez Khan, owner of a safari camp in Bajana, believes the leopard is a very intelligent animal to be run over by a truck.
"How can a leopard get crushed under a truck in the open Rann? Besides, the animal was a healthy adult male, not a cub or an aged animal. It is a shy animal, so it would have avoided headlights of the truck rather go close to it," said Khan.