Rs 30 lakh, 21 days, leopard on the loose gives Belagavi the jitters

It is suspected that the leopard is taking shelter in the Belagavi Golf Club; schools and colleges remain closed while shopkeepers are watching beady-eyed

leopard belagavi
It is said that around ₹2-3 lakh is being spent on the operation to find the leopard, including technology and manual efforts. Representational image

The mega ‘Mission Leopard’ launched by the Karnataka forest department to catch a leopard roaming in and around Karnataka’s Belagavi has entered the 21st day, and the leopard is yet to be traced. 

Mission leopard
The leopard seen in a CCTV footage

There is much anxiety over the big cat’s hide-and-seek. Residents are concerned about a leopard roaming freely in the city, and netizens have been prodding authorities to look harder. 

It is said that around ₹2-3 lakh is being spent every day on this operation, including technology and manual efforts. A team of forest and police officials, numbering around 200 people, including sharpshooters, wildlife activists and anaesthetists, are at work, chasing the leopard. Believe it or not, Rs 30 lakh has been spent so far to trace the elusive big cat.

Drone team from Bengaluru

A special drone team from Bengaluru has joined the operation. It is trying to find the leopard’s location, scanning every nook and corner of the city’s Golf Club premises. The authorities have also roped in two trained elephants named Arjuna and Aale, from the Sakrebailu elephant camp in  Shivamogga to aid the search operation.

Also Read: Maha: Leopard kills goats, hens in cattle shed; caught & released in forest

The leopard is still roaming in and around Belagavi, leaving its footprints almost everywhere. It has been sighted by some locals, but not the concerned officials. There is CCTV footage which tells a lot about the leopard’s movement. The beast has, however, hoodwinked everyone while creating fear among the people.

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The leopard search team at work

Around 22 schools and colleges have been shut down by the administration for 20 days due to fear of an attack. The schools have been directed to carry out online classes by Belagavi Deputy Commissioner Nitesh Patil.

Even the hawkers and shopkeepers are worried about the leopard, and are taking all sorts of security measures.  

Golf Club ‘resident’?

It is suspected that the leopard is taking shelter in the Belagavi Golf Club, which is spread across 250 acres in the heart of the city. It is considered a  ‘mini’ forest with dense vegetation, which may help the leopard ‘feel at home’, with its prey mostly consisting of street dogs, pigs and chickens.

Also Read: New colourful species of leopard geckos identified in Odisha, AP

The residents of Hanumannagar, Jadhav Nagar and the Camp region in Belagavi can barely muster the courage to step out of their houses. Till now, the leopard has attacked only one person, a local who was seen by the big cat.

The district administration is busy clearing the thick vegetation to find the leopard and trap it. It has built temporary watchtowers and placed cages at strategic spots in the Golf Club, a forest official said.

ACF MB Kusanal told The Federal that efforts are ongoing, and the leopard is a shy animal that cannot be traced easily. It is hiding in the thick vegetation, he added.

Social media agog

The leopard is now trending on social media with several netizens sharing its images.  There is much spoof in this context. There’s a photoshopped ‘Aadhaar Card’ for the animal. It even has the name ‘Bibatya Belgavkar’ and boasts an official ‘date of birth’.

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In one humour post, it gives a byte to a TV channel, saying, “The weather of Belagavi is so nice, I am planning to shift my family here.” There is also ‘talk’ of the beast staying put in the city to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi, as the Karnataka-Maharashtra border district is famous for Ganeshotsva.

Some netizens are making fun of  Umesh Katti, the district in-charge who once told the media that the leopard had visited Belagavi to meet him.