Leopard Stoned to Death by Mob of 200 Angry Villagers

A leopard has been stoned to death by a "mob" of 200 angry villagers in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan, a wildlife official said.

Rina S Khan, Chair of the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board, said villagers "ganged up" on the leopard after it was spotted near Hattian Bala village on the morning of February 8.

Pakistani television channel Geo News said people began screaming as the leopard was spotted wandering around the village. Locals cornered the leopard, which then attacked two people causing minor injuries.

The mob then began throwing stones at the animal, causing it to die from excessive bleeding.

Distressing videos and pictures showing the animal being attacked have been shared online. One picture shows the leopard dead with rope around its neck.

Remote file
Pictures on social media show the leopard with rope around its neck.

The Azad Kashmir Wildlife & Fisheries Department were called at 7 a.m. local time when the leopard was first seen to remove it. However, by the time they arrived at 9 a.m., the leopard was already dead.

Khan told Newsweek that it was the second leopard killed in Azad Kashmir in just six weeks.

In a Tweet, Khan said that the mob had been "intent" on killing the leopard, despite police being on their way. "If you corner a wild animal, of course it will attack you! Why didn't they wait for the wildlife dept and let them do their job?" she wrote.

Khan posted videos on twitter calling for the culprits to be punished.

Common leopards are critically endangered. They live in sub-Saharan Africa, northeast Africa, Central Asia, India, and China, however most of their populations are under threat, especially outside of Africa. In Pakistan, they are mainly found in the highlands of Balochistan and Sindh, and the mountainous forests of Punjab, and Azad Kashmir.

Tara Pirie, a postdoctoral research fellow specializing in big cats at the University of Surrey in the U.K, told Newsweek that these incidents tend to involve leopards who are injured, unwell or malnourished, meaning they are more likely to attack.

She said that the leopard was probably less able to flee the situation as easily compared to if it were healthy, so it attacked in order to defend itself.

"Unfortunately because of the ever increasing human encroachment on the diminishing pockets of natural habitat, conflict like this will continue to happen due to there being less space and food for leopards and other carnivores," she said. "This forces them to search for alternatives which brings them into conflict with humans."

This sort of incident is not uncommon. Leopards are wandering into villages more regularly because their habitats have been destroyed to make room for houses.

Luke Hunter, executive director of the Big Cats Program at the Wildlife Conservation Society, told Newsweek that compared to most big cats, leopards are "amazingly tolerant" of human activity and go out of their way to avoid conflict.

"But free-ranging livestock is vulnerable to wild carnivores, and people are justifiably aggrieved when a leopard kills their livelihood. Conflict, and a dead leopard, is often the sad outcome," he said.

In 2020, Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan announced plans to better protect the country's wildlife. However the hunting of leopards has persisted. People usually attack leopards either to sell their fur, or protect livestock.

Alongside pictures and videos of the attack on Twitter, Rina S said it was unacceptable and called for the culprits to be held to account. "A mob of 200 attacked leopard who came near village & killed animal mercilessly. ... The culprits must be punished," she wrote.

She said there will be hardly any common leopards left in Pakistan "at this rate."

The body of the leopard has been sent for an autopsy to Muzaffarabad.

A similar incident occurred in Kashmir in January, when a female leopard died after being shot by a villager. The Guardian reported that calls to protect Pakistan's critically endangered wildlife increased following the incident. The suspect was arrested and released on bail.

This article has been updated to include quotes from Luke Hunter.

Leopard in Pakistan
A picture shows a recently injured Leopard in Kashmir, who was shot by villagers and died from injuries. SAJJAD QAYYUM/Getty Images