July 20, 2015 4:27:28 am
With the rising cases of injuries due to man-animal conflict, the state forest department has roped in experts to bring out a Standard Operating Procedure to deal with them. The SOP is slated to be ready in a month.
In Maharashtra, 294 cases of animal-related deaths and injuries were reported in 2014, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.
These include injuries and deaths involving leopards, monkeys, snakes, crocodiles, and nilgai.
The number of such injuries stood at 203, the highest in the country, while 92 deaths were recorded. The highest number of snake-bite injuries were reported from the state last year at 514.
The statistics have pushed the forest department to concentrate on SOPs for man-animal conflicts, mainly in Mumbai, Pune, Sangli and Vidarbha areas.
“Until now, we follow the Central guidelines on what to do when there are man-animal conflicts. With this exercise, we want to bring out specific SOPs throughout the state for officials to follow during a conflict,” said Sunil Limaye, Chief Conservator of Forests, Pune Wildlife Wing.
“These SOPs will also guide officials on how to avoid conflicts. There are lots of ways people and animals can co-habit peacefully if we just mend our ways a little as animals attack only when threatened,” he added.
While there have been no incidents of leopard attacks in Mumbai since 2011, villagers in Junnar have seen conflicts with leopards, some resulting in deaths. This prompted the forest department to initiate the process of roping in experts like wildlife biologist Vidya Athreya to identify and help reduce the conflicts.
Besides the leopards, SOPs are being to handle conflicts with monkeys in Vidarbha, crocodiles in Sangli, bisons in Kolhapur and snakes throughout the state.
To address snake bites, the forest department plans to make anti-venom serum available in the remotest of areas as officials say that most people die because of non-availability of proper treatment, said Suresh Thorat, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests.
In Sangli and parts of Kolhapur, officials are contemplating fencing vulnerable parts of the river banks to avoid deaths due to crocodile attacks.
Experts are now looking at the possibility to change cropping pattern in Kolhapur areas to avoid damages by wild bison in the area and are trying to find reasons why the bisons are increasingly leaving their forest habitats.
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