Villagers in Battal, lying on the outskirts of Azad Jammu and Kashmir’s (AJK) capital Muzaffarabad, ruthlessly killed a leopard cub that had invaded their settlement in search of food. According to news reports from the area, the animal was first driven into an abandoned home and once trapped there, it was tied up using blankets and ropes. The cub was then reportedly dragged into the open by its tail as a result of which it died owing to the multiple injuries and trauma it suffered. AJK Wildlife Department officials arrived, but were too late to save the animal, which is on the protected list under the AJK Wildlife Act. This incident brings the number of leopards killed in various parts of AJK to over a dozen in the past six months. Incidents such as the killing of leopards and other animals have surfaced repeatedly in AJK since 2006. The law permits the killing of leopards in self-defence or to save livestock, but not the kind of crazed brutality that was on displayed this time. The animal could easily have been saved. AJK Wildlife officials say that growth in the human population and the consequent destruction of natural habitats resulting in loss of food, is driving leopards and other animals towards settlements. That said, local communities need to be educated on the need to protect animals.
This is easier said than done, since the villagers of AJK and the neighbouring Galiyat area of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, consider the leopard to be very dangerous. What we need beyond raising awareness is more effective policies to protect forest areas and prevent timber mafias from operating as they do in AJK so that the animals are not bereft of their natural habitats. We need to show greater care and concern for animals in general, and especially those species which are near extinction. Moreover, such acts only deteriorate the image of Pakistan in the international community and instead further reinforce that we have little regard for life, be it human or animal.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 3rd, 2012.