By: Sameer Showkin Lone
Shopian: The leopards seem to have a field day as they continue to roam freely in the orchards of several villages of Shopian district, creating a sense of panic among locals and restricting them from going to their apple orchards for farming.
Half-a-dozen locals in Heff-Shopian village spotted the leopards in their orchards last evening (Sunday evening) when they were on their way home from their respective orchards.
One farmer, who was watering his apple trees throughout the day in his orchard told the Precious Kashmir that he and his brother were in their Maruti car returning home from the field when they saw a huge leopard following their vehicle.
“The wild animal looked huge. It seemed like a leopard to me. That wild animal followed us until the first entry point of our residential area of the village. Then the animal moved back to orchards,” he said (name withheld).
Another farmer, who was busy cutting grass in his orchard, said that a leopard attacked his sheep while it was grazing in the orchard. “The sheep, however, was lucky as the leopard slipped while moving across a gorge next to his apple orchard and the sheep fell aside and survived. “We both survived luckily. The leopard was huge,” he said.
Two to three farmers also claimed that they found leopards while working in their orchards in the last two days. However, the claim has not been established whether it is only one leopard or there are more than one roaming in the area.
Last week, the wildlife officials had laid down the trap when they heard about the movement of leopards but they couldn’t trap one. Now after a week, the leopards have again surfaced in the area at a time when people are busy in apple gardens. “We fear going to our orchards. It is a risky thing now. It is a busy time in apple orchards, some have to water their apple trees and some go to orchards for cutting grass for cattle and other related works. Some have to spray pesticides. How can we work when there is a fear around,” said another local.
The Precious Kashmir spoke to a Wild Life official in Shopian, Sheeraz Ahmad who said that they will lay a trap again in the area to catch the wild animal.
However, at the time the story was being filed there was no action seen on the ground by the Wildlife department.
Earlier a week before, the official of the Wild Life Department had made an announcement on mosque loudspeakers about the presence of leopards and had cautioned the locals from going to the fields for farming.
“If you go to apple orchards or other farms, please go to at least a group of four people. People should avoid going to fields alone,” a wildlife official announced on a mosque loudspeaker in Heff Shirmal.