Poachers kill endangered leopard, hack off paws, pull out teeth and dump carcass at national park canal

Four suspects were arrested in connection to the case and produced in court

                            Poachers kill endangered leopard, hack off paws, pull out teeth and dump carcass at national park canal
Getty Images

Four people were arrested in connection to the horrifying slaying of a leopard, which had its paws hacked off and its teeth pulled out.

The investigation was opened after a fully grown male leopard was found shot and killed at the Mau Ara tank in Sri Lanka's Udawalawe National Park, a popular tourist destination that is the third most visited park in the country, according to the Colombo Page.

The leopard was dumped face down in a canal connecting to the Mau Ara tank and police said the big cat had died after it was caught in a trap set up by the suspects.

A postmortem examination conducted by the wildlife veterinary unit in Udawalawe confirmed the leopard, which is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List, had died as a direct result of being trapped. The suspects had subsequently sawed off the leopard's forelegs for its nails and pulled out its teeth, both of which are sold in black markets around the world and have uses in traditional Asian medicine.

The animal's carcass was reportedly then taken to a house in the Kumarapura area in the Sevanagala police division, where residents are said to have refused to keep it. The suspects then dumped the carcass at the canal.

Wildlife photographer Sumudu Soyza had visited the park and shared disturbing images of the dismembered leopard, stating poaching was a serious problem in the national park but that no one cared. "This act of crime must not be taken lightly due to the gravity of the situation and its consequences," she said.

All four suspects were arrested as a result of a joint operation by the Police Special Task Force and wildlife officials after the officials of the Department of Wildlife Conservation informed the Hambegamuwa Police.

The accused are said to be hunters from the Nelumwewa area in Udawalawa and have been handed over to Sevanagala Police for further investigations. They made their first appearance at the Embilipitiya Magistrate's Court on January 6.

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