‘Trapping leopards unnecessary,prompted by political pressure’

Report on human-animal conflict in and around SGNP released.

Written by Express News Service | Published: March 8, 2013 2:34:31 am

Report on human-animal conflict in and around SGNP released.

Political pressure prompted by people panicking without sound reason was behind the aggressive and unnecessary trapping of leopards in Aarey Milk Colony and the periphery of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) in the last two decades,Director Sunil Limaye on Thursday said after releasing a report on human-animal conflict in and around SGNP.

The report slammed the notion that leopards need to be trapped immediately after a sighting.

“A lot of people were killed and injured between 1997-98 and 2002-04 after leopards were trapped and released far away from their habitat. Leopards are highly territorial and scared of humans. Upon release in an unfamiliar area,they become agitated and tend to attack humans,” he said.

A survey conducted as part of the study puts the number of leopards at SGNP at 21,of which 16 are females,3 are males and three are whose sex has not been ascertained. According to the report,even though there is no direct relation between number of leopards trapped and number of attacks on humans in areas where they are released,the attacks were higher when a large number of leopards was trapped and released.

The report notes that the attacks peaked at 24 between 1997 and 1998 and again at 84 between 2002 and 2004 in SGNP and adjoining Thane Forest Division. Between 2010 and 2012,nine leopards were trapped and 14 attacks on humans were reported . This year so far,three leopards were trapped and there were three attacks on humans.

“People panic after a leopard is sighted and call police and the forest department. At the forest department,we tell callers they are safe as long as the leopard is only passing through. When people become frustrated by the perceived inaction,they turn to corporators and local political leaders who put pressure on us to to trap the leopards. Later,the same leaders have privately said they agree with me,but when a mob of angry people gathers,they have to listen,” he said.

“SGNP is seen as the only home for leopards even districts adjoining Mumbai. Often,leopards trapped from as far as Pune and Nashik are released here because police and forest officials think this is their home. Leopards have a strong sense of territory and will attempt to return to their own area after release. Although for humans,SGNP and the Thane Forest Division are separate areas,for leopards it is a continuous stretch across the Western Ghats,” said Limaye.

57 dogs per sq km at Aarey COLONY,a big draw for leopards: STUDY

A year-long study by the Forest Department and the Centre for Wildlife Studies,Bangalore has found a relation between food availability at Aarey Milk Colony in Goregaon East and leopards wandering into the locality. The study says the abundance of food attracts dogs which in turn attract leopards who find them easy prey.

Aarey Milk Colony has seen two attacks on humans by leopards in January,one of them fatal. On January 6,a 25-year-old woman was seriously injured near her home and on January 27,a leopard killed an 8-year-old boy playing with friends in the thick forest.

The report,‘Human-Leopard Conflict in and around Sanjay Gandhi National Park’ puts the number of dogs inside Aarey Milk Colony at 700.

“That’s 57 dogs per square km. Dogs are easy prey for leopards. In addition,owners of tabelas dump carcasses of cattle in an open pit. Ideally,leopards should hunt for prey in the wild. But when they know food will be procured a lot easily in Aarey Milk Colony,they choose to go there instead,” said SGNP Director Sunil Limaye.

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