Fear grips Rafiabad over presence of leopards

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Baramulla: The Rafiabad area of north Kashmir's Baramulla district has been gripped by fear as leopards continue to roam freely after critically wounding three civilians recently.

The leopard attack incident, which occurred last Monday while the victims were working in their respective fields, has sent shockwaves throughout the entire area spread over dozens of villages.

The injured individuals have been identified as Farooq Ahmad Lone, a resident of Lorihama Achabal; Abdul Aziz Dar, hailing from Ferozpora Rafiabad; and Muhammad Yousuf Khatana, from Hiranagar Kathua. Currently, they are receiving medical treatment at Government Medical College Baramulla.

The residents of Rafiabad are living in constant fear following the recent leopard attack, with locals afraid to venture outside their homes due to the absence of any efforts by the wildlife department to either capture or tranquilize the wild animal.

“Seven days have passed since the leopard attacked three civilians here, and there is still no sign of the leopard or any action from the wildlife department,” said Fayaz Ahmad, a resident of Achabal Rafiabad.

The incident is unprecedented, as previous attacks by leopards were mostly reported in the upper reaches of the area, closer to the forests. The leopard attack has now unleashed terror.

Aijaz Ahmad, another local resident, urged the authorities to seriously address "this new phenomenon of wild animal attacks in populated areas" emphasizing the need for immediate action.

With no definitive action from the wildlife department, the entire agricultural-dependent area of Rafiabad is now engulfed in extreme fear. Farmers are unable to visit their fields, especially during the evenings when the temperature is considerably low.

The fear of leopard attacks has paralyzed agricultural activities in the apple-rich area of Baramulla district.

“The threat of leopard attacks has forced villagers to remain indoors, severely impacting our agricultural livelihoods,” lamented Javed Ahmad, a resident of Ferozpora Rafiabad, where the recent leopard attack left three civilians injured.

Wildlife officials from the Baramulla department claim to be monitoring the leopard's movements closely. They have prepared a cage and are hopeful that once they intercept the leopard's movements, they can successfully capture or tranquilize it.

“Since the leopard is on the run, we have been unable to apprehend it so far. However, our dedicated personnel is diligently tracking its movements, and we remain optimistic about capturing or tranquilizing the leopard soon,” assured Wildlife Warden, Muhammad Maqbool.

In the interest of public safety, Muhammad Maqbool emphasised that the department has already issued guidelines for the locals. As per the advisory, villagers are advised to travel in groups, especially during evening outings. Women and children should be accompanied by men, as leopards usually target individuals.

As per the advisory, the residents have been urged not to keep kitchen waste around their houses, as leopards are attracted to such areas in search of food.

The department also asked residents to remove any dense bushes near their homes to prevent them from becoming potential hiding spots for wild animals.

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