A leopard rescue operation by the forest department turned out to be a major attraction in a remote village of Uttarakhand, especially for migrant workers who had returned from different parts of India during the lockdown.

Despite heavy rain, a big crowd gathered to watch forest department staff rescue a leopard at village Khanda in district Pauri (Garhwal) on Thursday.

The leopard had entered a cowshed in the village and killed a calf. Hearing the noise, at about 2.30 a.m. on Thursday, landlord Balwant Singh got up. When he flashed a torchlight inside the shed, the sight of the leopard feasting on the calf terrified him.

Mustering courage, Balwant locked the door from outside. The villagers informed the forest department and as the rescue team reached Khanda village, the cowshed turned into a hotspot, with onlookers crowding every nook and corner of the place. Khanda is located about 50 kms from district headquarter Pauri.

Forest ranger Anil Bhatt of Nagdev range said, “We fixed a cage on the door and used different tricks to get the feline to move towards the cage. The tricks worked and the leopard was trapped in the cage. We have brought the leopard to Pauri and are waiting for orders from senior officers of the department about the next move. We will either send the cat to a rescue centre or release it in the wild.”

About 70-75 migrant workers had returned to their ancestral village Khanda during the lockdown. The operation saw a large number of villagers watching the action and taking videos on their smartphones.

Local resident Pravendra Nayal said, “The villagers were standing at the spot with umbrellas. Despite heavy rain the area was packed and as the operation concluded the local youths helped the forest staff in ferrying the cage from the village to the road head. A group of women, who had missed the action as they were busy with household work, asked the passing forest team to wait and show them the leopard as the cage was covered with a sheet. The forest team obliged.

Social activist Jagmohan Dangi said: “Such activities break the monotony. These days villagers are busy in their fields and many others are engaged in construction work in the area.” Villagers joined the walk from the cowshed to the road head, with the forest department team to say goodbye to the leopard who amused them for 3-4 hours.