From: Reuters
Published June 2, 2006 12:00 AM

Pakistan Investigates Killing of Rare Leopard

MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan — Pakistani wildlife officials were on Thursday investigating the killing of a rare leopard by villagers who said they had to shoot the big cat because they were in fear of their lives.

Leopards are protected in Pakistan but people can kill them in self defence, said Naeem Iftikhar, an official in Pakistani Kashmir's wildlife department.

The leopard came down from the mountains and entered the village of Sarli Saccha, which is in a national park 25 km (16 miles) northeast of the town of Muzaffarabad, where it was shot on Wednesday, Iftikhar said.

An investigation committee would try to determine if such drastic action had been necessary.

"If they had set off fire crackers or beaten drums the animal might have gone back to its habitat," he said.

"If the committee doesn't find evidence to support the villagers' claims, then the accused will have to face the penalty under the law which includes imprisonment for up to six months and a fine," he said.

Leopards of the species panthera pardus are found in Pakistan's northern mountains, as are endangered snow leopards, or panthera uncia.

Pakistani police shot dead a leopard last year that was blamed for killing six women, all of whom were attacked while out collecting fire wood.

Source: Reuters

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