Hyderabad: They are just returning home. The increasing number of reports on big cat sightings in and around the capital district might be alarming for many, but not for some who know that the leopards could be just returning home. Several parts of Hyderabad once had leopards, tigers, panthers, elephants, even partridge and quail roaming around freely.
If photographs of British officers posing with their kills, including tigers, are not enough, there are many accounts available online from books and journals written by British officials who were once posted in these regions. For instance, in Secunderabad – An Appreciation from the Point of View of an R.A.M.C. OFFICER’, written by Captain S Smith of the Royal Army Medical Corp and published in 1926, Smith talks about panthers existing in large numbers in the neighbourhood, and about a tiger being shot in Bolarum.
Here is the excerpt, where he talks about shooting in Secunderabad: “Shooting- …Panther abound in the neighbourhood and anyone with the necessary skill and local knowledge, and with the help of a good and honest native shikari, can kill several during the season. In the old days I am told they were rounded up and hunted on horseback with the spear just as ‘pig’ are killed to-day, so numerous were they in the district, but nowadays they are usually shot from a rough ‘machan’, a goat being sacrificed as ‘kill’. Tiger are rarely seen, but two years ago a tiger was shot by a young cavalry officer within a few miles of his mess at Bolarum.” (sic)
Home to big game
While Smith might be talking about the 1920s, the 1876 edition of the Calcutta Review, has a chapter dedicated to the ‘The Nizam’s Country’, talking about tiger hunting in the ‘old Cantonment of Secunderabad’ and the ‘obscure hamlet of Trimulgherry’. In a portion that proves that the city, once upon a time, was home to big game, the writer says a ‘money reward’ was paid for ‘every beast of prey destroyed’.
“A similar reward is equally claimable by the humblest village herdsman who has the luck some moonlit night, when watching beside a pool of water, to send a bullet from his matchlock through a tiger or panther…,” he says, adding that ‘a tiger that has thus been shot during the night, and whose huge carcass is being brought in a cart, for the sake of the reward, is an object occasionally met with in one’s early morning rides in the environs of Hyderabad.” (sic)
The officer goes on to state that ‘the hot season, weary as it was in the Cantonment, was the time of times, we found, for tiger shooting.’
Church plaque about tiger attack victim
Hyderabad: There is an interesting plaque, rather epitaph, fixed on the walls inside the All Saints Church, Trimulgherry.
“To the Glory of God and in loving memory of Jocelyn Mellor, Captain in ‘“L” Battery, Royal Horse Artillery who died at Trimulgherry on 6th June 1905, aged 28, from wounds inflicted by a tiger…”
Yes, you read it right. The 28-year-old Captain Jocelyn Mellor died of wounds inflicted by a tiger in Trimulgherry in 1905. There are several such epitaphs in the All Saints Church, and this one proves that the recent leopard sightings, a century ago, might not have raised an eyebrow, let alone making it to the newspaper, as regular as they were.