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Siliguri: In a span of merely 24-hours, two wild leopards have been found dead in a tea garden in north Bengal raising suspicion that they might have been poisoned.

This comes on a day when the forest department arrested three poachers from Matelli in Jalpaiguri district suspected to be behind the killing of a rhino in Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary on 25 December.

The workers at Garganda tea garden at Birpara in Alipurduar district noticed the carcass of an adult male leopard in Section No 35 of the garden on Thursday morning. It is the same section where an adult female leopard was found dead yesterday.

The two back-to-back leopard deaths have raised the suspicion that the wild animals might have been poisoned by people living in the vicinity so to avert an attack by them. The forest department has ordered post-mortem of the carcasses to ascertain the suspicion.

Man-animal conflicts in the forests of north Bengal are not unusual but mostly remain confined to wild elephants that are electrocuted by villagers to deter them from foraying into paddy fields.

Killing leopards, if this is the case as regards Gargenda tea estate, is a comparatively new phenomenon.

Meanwhile, foresters today arrested three men from Matelli suspecting them to be involved in the killing of a one-horned rhino near Gorumara forest rest house in Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary, whose carcass was found on Christmas morning.

The horn of the rhino had been chopped away before killing it and, this made it clear that it is a case of poaching. Despite the arrests, foresters are yet to recover the horn