Leopard Responsible For 15 Deaths In Nepal

A remote district of Nepal is being terrorized by a man-eating leopard that officials believe is responsible for more than 15 deaths in 15 months. Worse yet, the creature is expected to continue preying on small villages that border its habitat unless steps are taken to exterminate the animal.

The big cat’s latest victim was a 4-year-old boy whose remains were discovered in the jungle, not far from his village, this past weekend. According to CNN, two-thirds of the leopard’s victims thus far have been children under the age of 10. Most of the rest were older children, although the cat has killed a 29-year-old woman who had wandered into the forest alone.

Officials from Baitadi, the district in which the kills have taken place, believe that they are dealing with a solitary cat or possibly two leopards at most. They also fear the number of human deaths may be greater than 15 as the animal’s habitat falls along the border with India, where similar leopard attacks have been reported in recent months as well.

The hunting of wild animals is strictly prohibited in Nepal, which means villagers in Baitadi can’t normally go hunting the leopard. But specialists from the Department of Parks and Wildlife Conservation in Kathmandu have admitted that this particular animal will have to be put down. Its continued preying on humans over a prolonged period of time indicates that it is a dangerous animal that isn’t likely to discontinue its unusual hunting practices. To that end, CNN reports that a bounty worth about $300 has been put out on the animal, whether it is captured dead or alive.

Typically thoughts of Nepal conjure images of snow-capped peaks and high mountain passes, which makes it easy to forget that the country also has some very wild lowland areas too. Those areas are home to a wide variety of wildlife species, including elephants, rhinos, monkeys and even tigers. That abundant wildlife has made those regions popular with tourists, who can get an unexpected safari while visiting the Himalayan country.

[Photo credit: Rute Martins of Leoa’s Photography via WikiMedia]

Leopards May Go Extinct Thanks To Religion

One of Africa’s iconic animals may be hunted to extinction by an emerging religion that honors them, CNN reports.

The Church elders of the Nazareth Baptist Church, also known as the Shembe, wear leopard skins as part of their rituals. A mixture of Christianity and traditional Zulu practice, the church has attracted some five million followers in South Africa and is growing quickly.

Thousands of leopard skins are sold openly at Shembe gatherings each year, despite it being a protected species. Leopards are already designated as “near threatened,” meaning they could be threatened with extinction in the near future.

The leopard is also hunted by people seeking trophies or wanting to use its body parts for traditional medicine.

Now conservationists are trying to get the Shembe devout to wear fake leopard skin imported from China rather than killing the animal they admire as a symbol of pride and status. While the church elders see how their faith’s growing popularity is threatening the leopard, so far they have not been convinced to make the switch to fake fur.

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Adventure destination: Chitwan National Park, Nepal

When travelers think about Nepal, the first thing that comes to mind is the towering peaks of the Himalaya and some of the best trekking on the planet. The tiny mountain kingdom is the home of Mt. Everest and the Annapurna Circuit, but many visitors are surprised to find that the country has a subtropical lowland area, and that there is an amazing national park there.

Chitwan National Park is found in the south central portion of Nepal and covers approximately 930 square kilometers of classic jungle. The park was founded in 1974 and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site a decade later, thanks to its rich flora and fauna, much of which can no longer be found anywhere else on the planet. The park has large tracts of elephant grass broken up by a variety of deciduous trees that line the the Rapti, Reu and the Narayani Rivers all of which run through the region.
The big draw for visitors to Chitwan is the animal life however, and there are some amazing species on display. More than 40 types of mammals call the park home, with another 45 species of reptiles and amphibians, and more than 450 types of birds. Elephants, Indian rhinos, and sloth bears are amongst the favorites amongst the visitors, while predators such as tigers, leopards, and march crocs wander the jungle.

There are a number of unique ways to explore Chitwan. The most popular is an elephant safari, on which visitors explore the park on the back of a pachyderm. But with three fairly large rivers in crossing through the area, traversing Chitwan by canoe has also become one of the best ways to view the wildlife and the landscapes.

Most adventure travelers going to Nepal fly into Kathmandu and spend a few days exploring that ecclectic city before heading out on their treks or climbs. But anyone visiting the country should do themselves a favor and take a day trip to Chitwan for a safari experience that is as enjoyable as it is unexpected.