The Islamabad Police on Friday opened a criminal investigation against an unknown person for “domesticating” a leopard, a day after it ran free and injured several people in an upscale residential area of the capital.
Yesterday, video clips of the feline jumping across walls and navigating roads in the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) Phase II neighbourhood of Islamabad went viral on social media, leading to an hours-long effort by authorities to capture it.
Today, the Islamabad Police tweeted that its Sahala Police Station, under whose jurisdiction DHA Phase II falls under, booked an unidentified suspect under sections 324 (attempt to commit murder) and 289 (negligent conduct with respect to animal) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
The leopard was a pet in an unknown person’s home, the police alleged. “The suspect endangered the lives of citizens by keeping dangerous animals,” it said in a second tweet. “The search for the accused is ongoing, legal action will be taken after arresting him soon.”
‘Alive and well’
Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman tweeted a video of the big cat sitting on the ground, saying this “leopard who escaped from a private zoo last night in Islamabad is alive and well at our Animal Rescue centre at the old zoo”.
She added: “Its six-hour capture operation injured one of our Wildlife staff quite badly. Costs to the community and the animal could have been much higher. STOP private zoos.”
The Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB), which captured the wildcat, shared videos showing the leopard “in good health” moving about in its enclosure. It also revealed it was male and that staffers have named him “Deeaitchay”, a play on the neighbourhood he was captured in.
“Male leopard is in good health at IWMB’s rescue and rehab centre,” it said. “IWMB scientific committee will decide next steps for leopard’s rehabilitation. Leopard has been named Deeaitchay by IWMB staff.”
Yesterday, it took the IWMB and Capital Development Authority more than five hours to capture the leopard, which a Dawn report said possibly escaped from a safari park and found itself “trapped” in the neighbourhood amid panicked residents.
The IWMB after failing to lure the animal into a cage had to use a tranquiliser around 10pm to sedate the animal after it was confined in a closed space by the volunteers and staffers present on the spot. According to Rina Saeed Khan, who heads the wildlife board, the leopard would be kept at a rescue centre in the Rescue Centre, which used to be the Islamabad zoo.
Around 4pm, videos started making rounds on social media showing the feline running around in the housing society. These clips showed the leopard — also panicked — trying to flee the scene, but it ended up running into houses and scaling walls.
The leopard could also be seen attacking an IWMB volunteer twice. Three people got hurt, including two staff members of IWMB, during the entire episode which resulted in the capture of the wild cat. In another video, a man, who came across as a private security member, shot at the leopard without any regard for the safety of people gathered on the site. However, this was denied by the authorities concerned.
‘Call for Rescue’
At 4:20 pm, the DHA security called the Islamabad Wildlife Management Department to report that a leopard had bit a security guard on the back. By the time the IWMB team reached the housing scheme, Rescue 1122 was already on the ground but it had failed to cordon off the area, said IWMB Rina Saeed Khan. She claimed a lot of TikTokers had gathered around the leopard, dangerously close to the feline despite warnings from the staff of the CDA to stay indoors. “The leopard attacked because it felt cornered,” Khan said.
Rina Saeed Khan said it was illegal to keep common leopards as pets and action would be taken if it was established that it had an owner.
Initially, IWMB staffer Rizwan Mehboob, who was slightly injured by the feline, suspected that the leopard seemed to have escaped from a nearby farmhouse. The leopard did not attack as a wild cat would; they usually target the neck of their prey.
This was not the first time common leopards have disrupted life by entering settlements — a result of encroachment into their habitat.
Last year in November, leopards entered several houses in the Saidpur model village in Margalla Hills, spreading panic.
While the villagers said they saw four leopards, IWMB said that leopards were highly territorial, and did not roam in groups like a pride of lions.
Two leopard cubs killed in Tirah
While the Islamabad leopard was “well”, two cubs in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Tirah valley were not so fortunate.
Locals killed two leopard cubs in the Tirah valley of Khyber tribal district, Wildlife officials confirmed today.
“The local wildlife office received information on Wednesday evening regarding the killing of the cubs,” read an initial investigation report of Climate Change Forestry Environment and Wildlife Department Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, adding that a team comprising wildlife and police raided a far-flung mountainous village in the valley.
The report added that the cubs were killed in the Dara Adam Khel area of the Tirah valley.
Staffers of the department and police jointly raided the area and recovered the bodies of the cubs, the report said. Two people were also arrested.
“A case was registered against him under the Biodiversity Act 2015,” said Climate Change Forestry Environment and Wildlife Department Spokesperson Latif Ur Rehman, adding that an investigation was also under way.
Additional reporting by Jamal Shahid