The Sri Lankan military is accused of illegally raising a wild leopard, which went on to injure several Tamil villagers in Kilinochchi last month, according to a report in the Sunday Observer.
The leopard, which injured at least seven people near a local school, was eventually killed by villagers, after Wildlife Department officers arrived and then abandoned the area after the animal had begun injuring more people. Sri Lankan police were at the scene throughout the episode.
Autopsy reports on the leopard now reveal that it may have been a domesticated animal, adding weight to the villagers’ claims that the Sri Lankan military had been illegaly raising the leopard.
Dr Akalanka Pinidiya of the Giritale Wildlife Veterinary Hospital who carried out thee post-mortem said not only had the three year old leopard not eaten for at least two days, despite the abundance of livestock in the area, but that it also had a unusually thick layer of fat around its body, not commonly seen in the wild.
“Wild animals do not usually get a big layer of fat… It is usually when animals have been caged,” said Dr Tharaka Prasad, Director of Veterinary Health at the DWC. “Certainly the autopsy findings point to the fact this animal probably lived in a cage”.
He further noted that there was a complete lack of animal fur lining the leopard’s stomach wall, further indicative that the animal was domesticated.
Local Tamils suspect that the leopard was raised at a nearby army camp, and noted that two days before it was spotted, Sri Lankan soldiers had warned villagers that a “dangerous large dog” was on the loose.
Sri Lankan law prevents the unauthorised domestication of a leopard.
Sri Lankan wildlife officials, who spoke anonymously as they were speaking about the military, stated it was “widely known that there were two wild bears in cages at the Saliyawewa army camp”.
“The officials said it was more than likely that the marauding leopard in Ambalakulam was also a captive wild animal,” reports the Sunday Observer.
Sri Lanka’s Brigadier Sumith Attapattu denied the claims and said that it was “a punishable offence” if true. However he added he had spoken to the local commander of the camp and who “told me they didn’t have a leopard.”
“I am sure they have not done this,” he added.
See more from the Sunday Observer here.