Where will the leopard go,asks official,after a close encounter

Taking inspiration from some of his former colleagues in the state forest department,who penned their experiences with the wild...

Written by NitinPatil | Pune | Published:January 18, 2009 2:12 am

Taking inspiration from some of his former colleagues in the state forest department,who penned their experiences with the wild,a forest officer who served in Pune district for several years,has come out with a book in Marathi,Bibtya Kuthe Janar? (Where will the leopard go?),that focuses on the rising conflict between man and the wild animals,especially leopards in Pune district.

A former range forest officer (wild life) of Pune division Prabhakar Kukdolkar,who is now with the Social Forestry department in Thane,has jotted down his close encounters with the leopards in and around Pune. The book,published by Continental Publication,recounts how wild animals including leopards and bison entered the very heart of the city like Kothrud and Bharati Vidyapeeth premises on Pune-Satara Road and tells author’s first hand experiences of catching and releasing them back into the wild.

“I wanted to highlight the condition of wild animals that stray into the human habitat due to several reasons. These stray leopards represent the imbalance of nature and the effect of human encroachment. Rapid urbanisation,felling of trees in large numbers,conflagrations,poaching of wild herbivorous animals are some of the reasons that push these wild animals to step into the human territory. Through the book,I want to make people think about this issue and start caring,” says Kukdolkar.

The author narrates the incident in 1987 when a leopard was spotted within the Telco unit (now Tata Motors) near Pune and how the leopard managed to quietly sneak away into the wild after the brief appearance. In 1989,another leopard was spotted in a well in Pendhar village in Junnar tehsil and how Kukdolkar,along with other officials and villagers managed to rescue the animal by lowering ladders and a cage into the well.

The most out-of-the-ordinary experience is perhaps the spotting of a leopard at Saint Crispin’s Home at Nal Stop on Karve Road in December 1999. Similarly,the book also has the account of a bison spotted on Bharati Vidyapeeth campus in January 2000 and how it was captured after a stiff chase and then finally released into the woods in Kolhapur district.

The book also draws attention to the poor conditions the forest officials have to work in as also the lack of proper equipment and transportation facilities.

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