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Saturday, December 04, 2021

Maharashtra: Forest dept to take steps to bring down leopard deaths

The recommendations have been made in the wake of an alarming 57 per cent increase in the number of leopard deaths from 110 in 2019 to 172 in 2020.

Written by Sanjana Bhalerao | Mumbai |
Updated: October 17, 2021 8:39:27 pm
To reduce deaths of leopards in road/rail accidents, the panel also suggested construction of underground box culverts and tunnels for safe animal passage, construct speed-breakers, setting up speed limit signboards in accident-prone areas to slow down speeding vehicles. (Representational)

THE STATE forest department will create an online portal to record citizen sightings of leopards as part of several other measures to bring down leopard deaths suggested by the 11-member committee set up by the state board for wildlife (SBWL).

The recommendations have been made in the wake of an alarming 57 per cent increase in the number of leopard deaths from 110 in 2019 to 172 in 2020.
The committee has stressed increased coordination between police, animal husbandry department, zilla parishads, public works department in terms of crowd management in case of an attack and veterinary support, public awareness among other tasks.

“Since the main reason of leopards getting attracted to the village is linked with cleanliness, disposal of wastage of poultry and dead carcass of domestic animals should be controlled through the state animal husbandry department,” said the panel.

To reduce deaths of leopards in road/rail accidents, the panel also suggested construction of underground box culverts and tunnels for safe animal passage, construct speed-breakers, setting up speed limit signboards in accident-prone areas to slow down speeding vehicles.

According to data from the state forest department, leopard deaths due to road and train accidents doubled between 2019 and 2020. In 2019, 17 leopards died in road and train accidents while the count was 34, in 2020. Similarly, 25 died due to drowning in 2020, while the number was 10 in the year before.

The panel has recommended that the parapet walls should be constructed and the open wells should be covered with iron mesh. The committee’s suggestions were approved in the SBWL meeting held on Tuesday.

The ‘Status of Leopard- 2018’ report found that of 1,690 leopards in Maharashtra, 65 per cent population stays outside the protected areas viz. sanctuaries, national parks, and tiger reserves.

Leopards are adaptable big cats and are known to thrive in urban landscapes, in sugarcane fields and other agricultural fields having prey like wild boars, dogs and cattle. The panel has rejected the suggestion of translocation of leopards. The committee has suggested that a study should be undertaken to estimate the leopard population in areas of high human-leopard conflict.

The department has also asked the state electricity distribution company to change the supply timings from night to day-time or a pre-decided time for irrigation pumps in the high conflict zones, as many attacks on humans have been recorded at night in agriculture fields.

“To create awareness and to stop human deaths due to human-leopard conflict, construct toilets in rural areas to avoid deaths during night time, the irrigation pumps should be transformed to run on solar energy and operate as per pre-self-decided time,” read the panel’s recommendation.
The committee has also mapped the high conflict zones across the state. It has found rural areas — Dhule, Nashik, Nagpur and Kolhapur – sugarcane farmlands, recorded high leopard- human interaction.

Suggestions for capacity building of the forest department, setting up transit treatment centres on priority in areas with high human-wildlife conflict, at a local level, competent village rescue teams and rapid rescue teams should be formed, were also included in the proposal.

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