A mob of people killed a leopard by strangling it and pelting it with stones on February 8, 2022, in Hattian Bala district of Azad Kashmir, the Pakistan-administered section of the disputed Jammu and Kashmir region. At least 10 leopards – an endangered species – have been killed by humans in Azad Kashmir in the past year, raising concerns about human-wildlife conflicts in the region .
Many videos shared online watch the leopard stuck in a rocky area as people watch from above and to the side. The leopard had entered the village of Sarai in Hattian Bala on the morning of February 8 and attacked two people, causing them minor injuries.
Heartbreaking news: yet ANOTHER common leopard killed today in Azad Kashmir by villagers. A mob of 200 leopards attacked a leopard which approached the village and killed an animal without mercy. AJK wildlife was not informed in time. The culprits MUST be punished. unacceptable! Inasmuch as@WildlifeBoardInasmuch as pic.twitter.com/aH1FKAM9uq
— Rina S Khan Satti (@rinasaeed) February 8, 2022
Locals called wildlife officials, but before they arrived they threw rocks at the animal. Angered by recent leopard attacks on livestock, such as goats and cows, villagers trapped and tied him up. The leopard was reportedly killed after being tied up and dragged.
A photo shared online shows the leopard tied up.
“Leopards are not able to find enough prey for themselves, which is why they come to attack livestock”
Rina Saeed is the chairwoman of the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB), a conservation group running a national park in Pakistan, which has helped wildlife authorities in Azad Kashmir deal with recent incidents related to leopards. She explained to the FRANCE 24 Observers team why human-leopard conflicts were becoming more and more frequent in this area.
The wildlife department was on their way, but people were furious because the leopard had killed some of their livestock, so they didn’t wait. Even though the police were dispatched, there was a crowd of 200 people who threw rocks and vented their anger and frustration.
The winter months are a dangerous time when leopards descend from the mountains due to snow. They are not able to find enough prey for themselves, which is why they come to attack livestock. And Pakistan has one of the highest population rates in Asia, and we’re encroaching on their habitat.
Once authorities reached the site, they filed a complaint against two people responsible for the leopard’s death, but it was unclear whether they had been arrested. The animal was sent to Muzaffarabad for an autopsy. Those injured by the leopard were treated at a local hospital and released soon after.
There is no clear estimate of leopard numbers in Azad Kashmir, but urbanization has led to an increase in leopard sightings over the past year. The presence of leopards poses a problem for wildlife agencies, which aim to protect the animals without putting the local community at physical or financial risk.
The local community says we only care about the leopards, not their livelihoods. A leopard can kill up to 15 or 20 goats at a time, and it’s a blow to poor villagers. The government really needs to come up with a compensation plan. People should have support as well as greater awareness. If there is a leopard that enters the village, they can scare it away with firecrackers. Why do you have to face the leopard? Of course, the leopard will attack when chased, confronted and cornered.
Another leopard killed just two weeks earlier
The IWMB was already present in the area to rescue a leopard found in Neelam Valley, a district in northern Azad Kashmir.
Two weeks before the incident, we discovered an injured leopard. We were sent footage of a female leopard in Azad Kashmir that was near a river and could barely move. His hind legs were paralyzed. The villagers had found her and called the wildlife department of Azad Kashmir who had gone to try to rescue her. They don’t really have the means or the facilities to care for her, so we approached them and told them that if they sent her to us, we had a vet and a rescue and rehabilitation centre.
Initially they told us she had been hit by a car and we said maybe we could save her. But unfortunately we found out that she had been shot with a 12 gauge shotgun and had five to six pellets along her spine, paralyzing her. Vets tried to save her but she died during the operation.
Local people reported that she had two cubs and had come down from the mountains to hunt cattle. The 12 gauge shotgun is usually used by villagers – this is not the job of a professional hunter as they would be using a rifle.
The IWMB sent a team of staff members to set up camera traps in the area where the leopard was found, to get a picture of its cubs. They found tracks of the cubs and indications that they were old enough to hunt alone. The council decided to leave the cubs in the wild, rather than trapping them and putting them in captivity.
“The presence of a leopard in an area is actually a sign of a healthy ecosystem”
It was truly tragic because she was just such a beautiful leopard that had just been needlessly killed. The most important thing is to make people aware that they are beautiful animals. They are critically endangered in Pakistan. And they are killed without mercy – by hunting, poaching, villagers poisoning them or shooting them. The presence of a leopard in an area is actually a sign of a healthy ecosystem, as it is an apex predator and controls all other herbivores. This shows that the ecosystem is healthy and can support them.