Men in Cage Used As Bait to Catch Man-eating Leopard

This file photo shows a leopard resting in the Dachigam National Park outside Srinagar city, India, on November 9, 2017. TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images

Nature reserve officials in India have come up with an unusual way to track down a man-eating leopard—locking park rangers in a cage in the forest and waiting for the big cat to find them.

According to The Telegraph, officials in the western state of Gujarat used the desperate measure to stop the leopard, which is suspected of killing three people—including two children—in the space of a week. The animal is believed to have injured five other people since mid-November.

Rangers had placed nine cages containing animals including goats around the jungle in a bid to lure the deadly cat out of hiding so officials could take it down. But the promise of the caged animals was apparently not enticing enough.

So on Friday, the authorities went one step further, putting three rangers in one of the nine cages and leaving them there overnight. S.K. Shrivastava, the regional chief conservator of forests, admitted the measure was unusual but suggested, "Once in a while, such experimentation is needed."

The three-man stakeout team was made up of forest guard Vijay Bamania, an official trained to shoot tranquiliser darts and a veterinary doctor to attend to the animal once it was sedated.

The cage in question is normally used to trap monkeys, Shrivastava explained. He said the structure was "well locked" and that the men were in minimal danger.

"Initially we placed goats inside as bait, but it did not work. Now the men sit inside the cage, which is well-locked," Shrivastava told the Indian Express. "[They] are supposed to alert others if they sight the leopard."

Ranger Bamania said he considered the cage assignment "part of my duty to protect human lives."

"Our prime objective is to catch the leopard and stop loss of human lives," he continued. "We were not scared at all. We spent four hours in the cage on Friday, from 6 to 10 p.m. We had a torch while a goat was tied in the open nearby. We also had a machine to make goat sounds to attract the leopard. Around our position we scattered dried leaves so we could hear the leopard coming."

Officials said they still hoped to trap and tranquilize the leopard, but noted their back-up plan would be to kill the big cat.

The animal's latest victim was identified by the Times of India as Mathuri Ganava, who was attacked while gathering firewood with three other women on November 28.

The leopard pounced on Ganava and dragged her into the bushes as the other women escaped. Her decapitated body was later found nearby.

J.L. Zala, the regional deputy conservator of forests, described Ganava's death as "most brutal." He said authorities "are now planning ways to nab the leopard" including, but not restricted to, the animal-and human-filled cages. As many as 200 people are helping to search for the animal, the Express noted.

Ganava was the third local killed in the space of a week. The previous two victims were 9-year-old Ashwinta Pasaya and 11-year-old Jyotsna Parmar.