Leopard eats at least 15 people in Nepal

Leopard illustration 
By: Anika Rao 

A leopard killed and ate at least 15 people in Nepal, according to officials who warned the public about the dangerous animal.

A fierce leopard may have killed 15 people in Nepal, over a period of 15 months. The latest victim was a 4 year old, who the creature dragged into the jungle to eat.

The child's head was found in the woods about a mile from his home on Saturday morning, Kamal Prasad Kharel, the police chief of Baitadi district, an area about 600 kilometers or 373 miles west of Kathmandu said.

The gruesome discovery came after a team of people searched for the missing child. This marks the 15th victim in the last 15 months in this remote district in western Nepal.

The police chief suspects that one human-eating leopard is responsible for the deaths. If not, there are at most two of the creatures that eat humans, he believes.

Maheshwor Dhakal, an ecologist with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation in Kathmandu, agreed that it is rare to find more than one or two leopards that eat humans in an area. Most leopards live on wild prey.

More human victims also could be expected if more than one or two human-eaters are around, he said.

"Since human blood has more salt than the blood of animals, once the wild animals get the salty taste of human blood they do not like other animals such as deer," Dhakal said.

Kharel said he feared that the actual number of deaths by the leopard can be greater than 15, because others have lost their lives to attacks by leopards in Uttarkhand state in northern India, which borders the Baitadi district.

"It could be the same leopard," he said.

Of the 15 victims in Nepal so far, two-thirds are children under 10. The others are older children and a woman of 29 years old, who had gone to collect fodder for domestic animals in the nearby forest, a common practice in Nepal.

"No grown man has been killed so far," Kharel said.

All the victims are from villages bordering the dense forests of the region, he said. After killing its victim, the leopard carries the corpse in the woods to eat.

"For children, it only leaves behind the head and eats everything else, but some parts of the adult body is left behind," Kharel said.

The district administration has announced a reward to anyone who captures or kills the leopard.