Morni villagers say no to leopard sanctuary in areahttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/chandigarh/morni-villagers-say-no-to-leopard-sanctuary-in-area-5566528/

Morni villagers say no to leopard sanctuary in area

The restrictions included, no construction of concrete houses, resettlement of small hamlets and restriction of picking the broken woods from forested area.

Morni villagers say no to leopard sanctuary in area
Morni forest area. (Saurabh Prashar)

Haryana Forests and Wildlife Department has dropped the project of making a leopard sanctuary in Morni hills.

The project, which was proposed in 2017 by senior biologists of Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, was dropped because residents of 20 Panchyats raised strong objection over the making of the sanctuary as it requires strict restrictions on movements of local dwellers.

The restrictions included, no construction of concrete houses, resettlement of small hamlets and restriction of picking the broken woods from forested area.

Morni hills spread about 60,000 acres, out of which 50,807 is under forest department. Two wildlife sanctuaries including, Bir Shikargah and Khol Hi-Raitan, are situated in Morni hills. According to Haryana Wildlife and Forest Department, movements of around 55 leopards and leopardess were reported in the area.

Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), Panchkula, ML Rajvanshi, said, “We engaged a team of wildlife experts under the supervision of senior biologist, Dr Bilal Habib of WII for a feasible study of leopards in Morni. Rs 80 lakh were sanctioned for the project. The study was scheduled to be conduct through camera traps and other equipments for checking the movements of cats and the abundance of prey species in the area. The plan was dropped when objections were raised by local residents of Morni through their political representatives. The presence of around 55 leopards, leopardess and cubs has been established on the basis of sightings and pug marks. A sanctuary requires strict rules and restrictions. At present, local villagers are allowed to pick and take away firewood from forest. But once the area is declared as a sanctuary, local dwellers will not be allowed to take anything from the sanctuary. A sanctuary also requires restriction on constructions and motor vehicles.”

Morni hills touch the Kalesar National Park, Yamunanagar, which is near the boundary of Himachal Pradesh. Including the Kalesar National Park, there are more than one hundred leopards in the area.

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Kalka MLA Latika Sharma said, “Local villagers were not in the favor of construction of leopard sanctuary in Morni. I conveyed the objections of villagers to senior officers. The Haryana Forest and Wildlife Department is exploring other ways to promote local economy and tourism in Morni hills.”