Leopard of the Yellagiri Hills

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The Leopard of the Yellagiri Hills was a man eating Indian Leopard which claimed three victims in the vicinity of the Yellagiris, a crescent formation of hills east of the Jalarpet Junction railway on the Southern Railway. It was killed by Kenneth Anderson, who described it as thus;

“... he was most unusual in his habits, even for a man-eater. He had repeatedly attacked his victims in broad daylight. Only tigers do this, as man-eating panthers, being inherent cowards at heart, usually confine their activities to the hours of darkness.”

—The Man-eating Panther of the Yellagiri Hills, The Black Panther of Sivanipalli, Kenneth Anderson, Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1957

Origins[edit]

The leopard originally limited itself to killing the cows of a herdsman named Nathan, who, over a three-month period, lost four of his animals to the beast. Two other herdsman in his village lost a couple each. When the monsoon season arrived, the cattle were transferred into the village itself. The leopard followed the herds, but was driven out by the herdsman every time, until one day, hunger drove it to kill a cow in front of two men. The leopard refused to be intimidated, and frightened off the herdsmen with loud growls. The villagers enlisted the help of a forester named Ramu, who at first hesitated to take on the assignment due to his lack of experience in hunting carnivores. He soon conceded and a day later, requested that a goat bait be tethered near a banyan tree close to where the leopard usually frequented. With the help of some villagers, he built a machan on the tree, and stood watch. Two hours later, at six p.m, the leopard took the bait. Ramu fired his single barreled 12 bore shotgun, which had been loaded with L.G cartridges, at the leopard. The leopard retreated into the jungle, and though it left a blood trail, it was not to be found the following morning.

First hunt for the leopard[edit]

Two months later, in the same area, the leopard mauled a 16-year-old boy, who managed to fight off the animal with a stick. Three weeks later, the leopard killed a goatherder who had launched himself on the animal in defence of his flock. The next morning, a search party of 30 villagers armed with clubs and staves went in search of the goatherd and found his half eaten body under heavy brush, one hundred yards from where there could be clearly seen splashes of blood and leopard pug marks. Kenneth Anderson was informed by the villagers of the death a few days later. Anderson asked the local Patel for a goat, and a small kid was purchased from a neighboring hamlet. With the help of the villagers, Anderson constructed a machan with the wood from a nearby jak-fruit tree, and tethered the kid twenty feet away. The panther never came, and by 9:15 p.m, Anderson gave up the vigil. He tried again unsuccessfully for three days, and later, returned to his home in Bangalore, instructing the Patel to inform him should the leopard attack again.

Second hunt for the leopard[edit]

Seven weeks later, a mail carrier at Jalarpet disappeared, and a subsequent search in the nearby hills resulted in the discovery of his spear and later, his body. Anderson left Bangalore, this time fully equipped with a .405 Winchester. The villagers informed him that a leopard had been sighted regularly on a hill named Periamalai (English: big hill), three miles east to the village and five miles from where the carrier had been killed. After selecting a spot near where the leopard was last sighted, Anderson returned to the village in order to procure a bait. This time, he chose a donkey, because unlike a goat which would have been completely devoured in one sitting, the donkey was large enough to warrant the leopard returning after its first meal. Three donkeys were purchased, one was tethered on the site of the mail carriers death, the other two on the village outskirts. The donkeys remained untouched for several days, until one night, the donkey at the mail carriers death site was killed and eaten. Anderson and some villagers rushed to the site and constructed a well camouflaged machan near the body. Anderson waited, and at nightfall, he heard the breathing of the leopard near the carcass. Preferring to wait until the animal had settled down on its kill, Anderson did not open fire. Nothing happened, and by 9:00 p.m, Anderson heard the leopard growling. Having somehow become aware of Anderson's presence, the leopard growled loudly for a few moments, before charging at the machan. Anderson fired at the leopard, but the shot was deflected by a tree branch. The leopard ran into the brush, and did not return. Morning revealed that the donkey carcass had been untouched and there was no indication that Anderson's shots had injured the leopard. Anderson returned to Bangalore after instructing the villagers to inform him should another attack take place.

Third hunt for the leopard[edit]

Nearly four months later, Anderson received a telegram from the villager Patel stating that the leopard had claimed another victim. He arrived at the Patels village at 7:15 in the morning, and was told that the victim had been a young woman collecting water in a stream running past the base of the Periamalai hill three days prior. Anderson purchased a goat from a nearby village. Anderson was not overly pleased with the bait, as it was an old animal which rarely vocalized, and it was purely black, a colour not present in the leopards natural prey, thus increasing the possibility of arousing the leopards suspicion. Arriving at the site of the last kill, Anderson tied the goat close to the stream, and hid himself in a lantana bush. The night proved fruitless because the goat fell asleep and did not cry out.

Death and post mortem[edit]

Anderson grudgingly led the goat back to the village the next morning, and with the help of the Patel, bought a half grown goat more likely to call out at night, thus increasing the chances of attracting the leopard. Tethering the goat at the same place as before, Anderson waited throughout the night until at 6:00 p.m, he heard the leopard approach. A few moments later, the leopard emitted a hiss, revealing that it was aware of Anderson's presence. Switching on his torch, Anderson saw the leopard ten feet away from him. He fired his .405 Winchester twice, hitting its throat and chest. The next morning, the leopard's body was found. It was described as;

“An old male, with a somewhat scraggy and pale coat, he showed every sign of being the man-eater, for his canine teeth were worn down with old age and his claws were blunt and frayed”

—The Man-eating Panther of the Yellagiri Hills, The Black Panther of Sivanipalli, Kenneth Anderson, Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1957

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • The Man-eating Panther of the Yellagiri Hills, The Black Panther of Sivanipalli, Kenneth Anderson, Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1957