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Leopard sighting near Siliguri shopping mall sparks panic

Darjeeling: Despite keeping a vigil along with setting up a trap, the Leopard that was sighted in Siliguri town, has not been spotted on Thursday.
The forest department along with the police are keeping a close tab on the situation. On Wednesday night at around 9 pm, the Leopard was spotted in the Adai Mile area adjacent to Sevok Road in Siliguri. Incidentally, Sevok Road is the commercial hub of Siliguri. It was sighted on the roof of a godown, opposite a busy shopping mall.
As the news spread, tension broke out in the locality. Uma Rani, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO,) Baikanthapur rushed to the spot along with forest guards sporting tranquilizer guns and nets.
Search lights were put up with forest personnel and police patrolling the area. Md Jahangir, a local resident stated that he had spotted the leopard on the roof of the godown and later on the boundary walls. The forest department was immediately informed.
A large crowd had gathered in front of the shopping mall. Section 144 CRPC had to be imposed to clear the crowd. The shopping mall was also emptied. Residents were asked not to venture out late at night unless absolutely necessary.
The leopard was again sighted late at night. A specially trained squad was called in from Sukna with the specialized vehicle "Airavat." However, the leopard could not be captured.
On Thursday morning at around 5 am, the leopard was sighted atop tree. Forest guards have set up a trap with a goat as bait to capture the leopard. However, the leopard has not been sighted.
"The leopard could have gone back to the Baikanthapur forest which is adjacent to this area. We are keeping a close tab on the situation. Patrolling and vigil is on," stated Jayanta Mandal, DFO, Wildife Division, Sukna.
This is not the first incident of its kind in Siliguri. There have been 3 instances of leopards straying into the locality in Siliguri in the past seven years. Along with leopards even elephants have strayed in.
"It is a cause of concern. With humans entering the jungles and spoiling the natural habitat of animals,
instances of man-animal conflict is on the rise," stated Animesh Basu, Coordinator, Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation, Siliguri.
Forest officials state that leopards usually stray into human habitat in search of food or when they lay cubs.
It is common for leopards to lay cubs in the irrigation drains of tea gardens in contiguous areas of the forest areas.
Both the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary and the Baikanthapur forest are located adjacent to Siliguri. Both have leopard population. However, DFO Uma Rani stated that the incidents of leopards straying into Siliguri town are being probed into.
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