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Monday, October 19, 2020

Lack of prey pushing leopards into cities: Experts

Big cat deaths: Forest dept said it was possible that the animals strayed into Ghaziabad from nearby Hastinapur Sanctuary

Ghaziabad | December 14, 2014 2:23:01 am
wildlife-759 On Thursday, one leopard was found dead in the forests near Pachehra village in Loni, Ghaziabad. The second one was found dead on Friday in Abupur village.

BY Aniruddha Ghosal

After the carcasses of two leopards were discovered in Ghaziabad — one on Thursday and the other on Friday — the forest department said it was possible that the two animals had strayed there from the nearby Hastinapur Sanctuary. Experts said their presence in areas such as Ghaziabad proves that the big cats have learned to thrive even in human-dominated areas.

On Thursday, one leopard was found dead in the forests near Pachehra village in Loni, Ghaziabad, by a farmer.

The forest department transported the carcass to Sanjay Nagar nursery, where a post-mortem ruled out any foul play. Officials said the animal, aged between 13 and 14, had died of natural causes. On Friday, another leopard, around 4 years old, was found dead at Abupur village.

Officials said it appeared that the animal was electrocuted after coming into contact with a high-voltage wire.

Forest department officials and experts maintained that two leopard deaths, within 48 hours, confirmed that the big cat was looking to move out of Hastinapur Sanctuary — that spans over Ghaziabad, Meerut and Jyotiba Phule Nagar — due to lack of prey.

A recent GPS-based study on leopards, a first of its kind, had confirmed that leopards adopted a number of strategies to not just survive, but thrive in areas with human habitations.

The study, titled “Adaptable Neighbours: Movements patterns of GPS-collared leopards in human-dominated landscapes in India”, was done by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) along with  Norway’s Hedmarks University College, the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, Himachal Pradesh Forest Department, Maharashtra Forest Department and Asian Nature Conservation Foundation.

It focussed on five leopards, three of them females, that had been tagged as “problem animals”, though they had never attacked humans.

“In the past few years, there have been numerous leopard sightings in human dominated areas. The Forest department tries its best to ensure that leopards aren’t attacked by people as it would lead to a man-animal conflict that can have very dire consequences,” a forest department official said.

The study found that leopards took active steps to avoid encountering people by only moving around at nights. The study also found that leopards could spend time closer to human habitations, coming as close as 25 metres, at night.

“We’ve always looked as leopards as outsiders. We need to understand that leopards are now a part of our cities, towns or settlements. Leopards are very adaptable animals. Humans have modified their habitat, but leopards have learned to live in these modified environment too. Now it is for us to understand this and figure out ways to adjust with them,” Vidya Athreya of WCS said.

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