One of the hazards of staying in a tea garden is the threat from a variety of wild animals ranging from the smaller feral cats to large leopards. There have been reports of even Royal Bengal Tigers being sighted and I have myself seen a rhino which had strayed into a Tea Estate. The fact is that due to habitat shrinkage and tea gardens being one of the few remnants of green cover we are right in the forefront of the man-animal conflict. The biggest threats come from wild elephants and leopards.In fact just about two years ago, our Mali's son was mauled and killed by a Leopard in front of our bungalow, tragically just 40 - 50 metres from where he was working. Apparently the kid had gone into the Estate to pick some berries where he was attacked.
So when, just around a couple of months ago, fresh sightings were reported the people around got pretty worried. I was cautioned about my morning walks in the Estate especially where our pet was concerned as Leopards appear partial to dogs. I had spotted some mongoose, flying squirrel and even a wild cat once but I really did not take the reports of a leopard seriously.
However, due to the concerns expressed by workers who have to go into the Estate to pluck, one cage was organised and, under the supervision of the Forest Department, placed in the tea bushes in front of our Bungalow. Every morning, I would go upto it and have a look to find the goat (the bait) sleeping peacefully. However one morning I found that the goat had been killed. Apparently, a pair of leopards had come upto to the cage, without entering it, had pawed the goat to death through the cage bars. It was then I actually started beliwving that we had a wild cats roaming around. However the animals refused to be trapped and goats began disappearing from the labour lines regularly.
Continuous rain kept me in for some days and just some days ago (19th November 2009), I got a call early morning informing me that a leopard had been trapped. I rushed out to the sight and soon a healthy crowd had gathered there. The local police and Forest Department were informed as people sometimes tended to hurt captured animals. I was most worried about the leopard hurting itself as it hurled itself against the bars.
It was a magnificent animal and a part of me was sad to see it captured. However relocation was possibly the best of a bad bargain.