Sri Lankan police on Friday arrested three people suspected of trapping and killing an endangered leopard and trying to sell its meat as a cure for asthma.
The trio were detained after police raided their home following a tip-off that they had used a snare to catch the creature in the central highlands.
“They cut the head off and killed the animal after it got caught in the snare on Thursday,” chief inspector Dushantha Kangara told AFP by phone.
He said the suspects had thrown the leopard’s head in the forest and removed the carcass to sell the animal’s skin, meat and other body parts.
Several leopards have been trapped by snares in the region, some 175 kilometres (110 miles) east of Colombo.
Kangara said there was a popular belief that leopard meat could cure asthma.
Police seized 17 kilos (37 pounds) of leopard meat from the three suspects.
There are believed to be fewer than 1,000 leopards in the wild in Sri Lanka, and harming the big cat is punishable by up to five years’ jail.
Wildlife conservationists have asked the authorities to ban snares and to prosecute those who use them.