Belagavi: The leopard rescue and relocation operation of the forest department here has been called off after a month since it began. The prowling leopard managed to retreat into a nearby forest area giving a slip to more than 300 personnel who were trying to trap it.
The education department has directed the 22 schools in the city to reopen and function normally from Monday following the forest department declaring the end of operations.
According to sources, the operation was trolled as the leopard managed to stay put in the 250-acre Golf Club even as more than 300 personnel from the forest, police department, sharpshooters, two elephants, anesthetic experts, wildlife experts and local hunter tribes worked day and night yielding no results.
On several occasions, the big cat had managed to escape with netizens, prompting hilarious comments from netizens on social media, who called him an “honourable citizen” waiting to return to forests after the Ganesh festival.
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Now, the authorities have declared that the big cat has managed to sneak into the Mundoli forest area. However, the trap cameras, CCTVs installed at various places in the Golf Club and cages will be kept for a few more days. The two elephants — Arjun and Ale — brought from Sakrebailu Elephant Camp in Shivamogga will be sent back.
Authorities have explained that they could not find traces of leopard for a week. A total of 23 trap cameras and 8 towers were put up to watch the leopard’s movements. Crackers were bursted and the whole premises combed to confirm that the big cat has managed to escape.
Chief Conservator of Forests Manjunath Chouhan has stated that the leopard has sneaked back into the nearby forest. Authorities have also confirmed with locals who have seen the it moving towards Mandoli forest area.
The authorities had used a honey trap method to catch it. More than 350 personnel carried out combing operations with JCB, elephants, sharpshooters, anesthetic experts every day for almost a month.
Since the prowling leopard continuously gave a slip to authorities, the 22 schools and colleges around in the areas switched over to the online mode of teaching. Nearly 20,000 students were affected by the leopard menace.
The authorities had laid traps with dogs inside in a few places. Later, they were forced to change the places of 8 small cages, one big cage and CCTV cameras as the leopard changed its place of movement.
The prolonged operation had created public outrage with the opposition Congress demanded the resignation of the Forest Minister Umesh Katti. A group of local women had challenged the authorities that if they are not able to catch the prowling leopard, let them in and they will catch the leopard, causing severe embarrassment to the authorities.
Social media campaigns were also taken up, kindling the authorities for their failure to catch the leopard.
The leopard had attacked a construction laborer in Jadhav Nagar on August 5.
(With IANS inputs)