The leopard mother and cub had wandered into the garden of a house in Dhapasi one morning last year. Locals raised the alarm, and the cornered mother was shot dead when it tried to break out. The cub was finally darted and caught, later set free in Shivapuri National Park.
Man-leopard encounters have become increasingly common in Kathmandu and across Nepal as the success of community forests has led to a revival of wild animals, which enter inhabited areas in search of easy livestock prey.
But most encounters result in tragedy, either for the farmers
who lose goats or chicken, or for the leopard.
In Kathmandu, the Central Zoo has a darting team, but they usually arrive at the scene too late because systems aren't in place for quick deployment.
"There hadn't been a clear mechanism for a rapid response team," admits Sarita Jnawali, director of the Central Zoo, "a zoo's actual role is to take care of the animals within it, not capture those in the wild."
Since Kathmandu did not have an official wildlife rescue team, the Central Zoo agreed to take up the role. It has now hired an experienced wildlife vet, and a mobile tranquiliser team.
Naturalists say that the reason for frequent leopard incursions is paradoxically Nepal's success in protecting its forests. The leopard, being the apex predator makes forays into the outskirts of Kathmandu or into villages when it is driven out due to competition, or due to depleting prey.
"If you sees a leopard, you should not disturb the animal," advises Jnawali, "walk out of the house, lock it and wait for the rescue team."
Rinjin Shrestha at the World Wildlife Fund Nepal advises against separating the cubs from their mothers because she may come back looking for them. However, the leopard is much less well studied than tigers and not a lot is known about their territorial competition and other habits. There has been a study of tiger-leopard confrontations in Bardiya National Park, but there hasn't been much research into encounters with humans.
Since it has been thrust by default into the role of rescuing leopards, the zoo has provided a grant to a student from Tribhuvan University to study leopard incursions for his master's thesis.
With better knowledge of why leopards are leaving their natural habitat, a reliable rapid response system and better public awareness, leopard encounters in future need not end in tragedy.
LEOPARD IN YOUR GARDEN?
* Don't try to drive it away by making noise
* Don't raise an alarm
* Don't separate cub from mother
* Don't panic the neighbourhood
* Call the police or Central Zoo's Rapid Response Team (5528323)
* If leopard enters house, lock it up
Once there was a leopard, NIRMAL GHOSH