ISLAMABAD: Residents of Shahdara village have been compelled to limit their mobility early in the morning and late at night after a leopard killed many of their domestic animals over the last few months.
Locals told this agency that the leopard has killed more than two dozen goats and half a dozen cows in the last couple of months.
“My cow was killed just 200 metres from my house a few weeks ago by a leopard. Villagers have seen it moving about with a pair of cubs nearby,” said Zakir Hussain, a local.
Abdul Rashid, who leads prayers in the local mosque, said he is paid Rs8,000 a month and that he had saved up to buy a cow so his family can have milk. He said the cow was killed by the leopard a few weeks ago.
“I may not be able to afford to buy another one,” he said.
Another villager, Maan Ali, said one of his goats has been missing for some days and that he suspects it may have been killed by the leopard.
Saghir Hussain said villagers think there may be more than one leopard killing their animals.
A resident said a group of villagers had last week chased a leopard after arming themselves with guns and axes, but it had disappeared in the nearby forest.
“We are afraid the leopard may attack our children who have to go to school every day,” said Zaheer Shah.
Residents would leave their animals free in the village and they would return home after grazing during the day. Now, if an animal does not return it is assumed it has been killed by the leopard.
“The killings have led to fear and panic in the village and it is also causing us great financial loss as a cow costs on average Rs100,000 and a goat costs between Rs20,000 and Rs60,000,” said Haji Qudoos.
He said there is no authority to address the concerns of the villagers or where they can go to claim their loss.
“People are so afraid they do not walk alone during the dark and people now go in groups to collect fire wood from the jungle even in the day,” a resident said.
They demanded protection for their livestock, from which they said they earn their living.
An official of the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board, Sakhawat Hussain said there are two families of leopards in Margalla Hills National Park, where Shahdara village is located.
He said leopards do not normally enter human settlements. However, he said, the animals are hunting on domestic animals due to the lack of prey animals and the shrinking of their habitat.
Mr Hussain said some complaints have been received from the villagers regarding the leopard attacks but regretted the board has no compensation funds.
He stressed on the need for such a fund, as initiated in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He also cited the example of Ayubia, where the KP wildlife department had compensated a victim for a leopard attack.
“The compensation will help protect rare and exotic wildlife and public must be involved in raising awareness. Otherwise, people may take to killing leopards, which are already an endangered species in Pakistan,” Mr Hussain said.