Leopard scare in Sepahijala after workers find footprints

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AGARTALA: Tension has reigned at the Gokul Nagar Tea Estate in Tripura, Sepahijala District, after some of the workers claimed to have seen leopard footprints in the tea estate area on Saturday morning.

Soon, Forest Service personnel arrived on the scene and began a search operation.
However, no trace of the big cat could be found in the area, officials said.

Local sources said that one of the tea plantation workers is a former employee of Sepahijala Wildlife Sanctuary, which is also the national park for leopard conservation. When he arrived at the tea estate a few miles from the shrine to start his day, he spotted footprints that looked like leopard prints.

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He said: “I used to serve leopards food inside their enclosures. I can easily identify the footprints of leopards and tigers. A leopard has certainly passed this way”.

As soon as the workers sounded the alarm, the manager of the tea estate rushed to the scene and informed the police and forest officers.

“All our workers are scared. We cannot compromise with their safety. Forest department officers are carrying out search operations in the border areas to find out whether or not the estate is safe from wild animal attacks,” the manager said.

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When asked, he said he was not aware of any big cat sightings in the area.

A team from the Charilam Forestry Unit led by Senior Ranger Tapan Kumar Nandi combed through the entire area as well as the suspicious places where these animals tend to hide.

“There are very rare chances of leopard movement in this area. I have a feeling the tea plantation workers must have mistaken the footprints for leopards. According to our observation, it could be a wildcat or a civet. The civet cats are found in large numbers here and often they prey on the village livestock,” Nandi said.

However, the search continues and work is suspended for the day on the tea plantation.

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