The recent case of a leopard being poisoned by a man and his subsequent arrest indicates how vulnerable the animals are in the forests of Pune district. And now, the forest officials are trying to keep a tab on the number of surviving leopards and take stock of the rising man-animal conflicts in the villages adjoining the forest areas.
In a bid to avoid such conflicts, they are trying to educate the villagers why one shouldn’t disturb the wildlife in the area.
Forest officials and experts have observed that majority of unnatural deaths of leopards in the state, including those in Pune district, are primarily due to man’s tendency to retaliate due to the growing fear of leopard attacks.
Jeet Singh, Chief Conservator of Forest (Territorial) Pune said, “Most cases of leopard deaths that we have come across are of retaliatory nature, wherein the villagers have tried to take revenge of the losses incurred due to attacks by leopards. It has been observed that the villagers put poison on the carcasses of dead livestock. Leopards consume the livestock and die due to poisoning as do several other carnivorous animals.”
“These killings have man-animal conflict and revenge at its core and not much of smuggling as a motive. The forest department gives adequate compensation in leopard attacks. In fact, Rs 8 lakh is given as compensation to the family for the loss of life of a human being. However, retaliation continues. We are trying to spread awareness about this issue at the local level.” said Athreya.
In areas like Junnar, incidents of leopard killing human beings have been witnessed recently. Two children were killed in Junnar in leopard attack in April-May 2015. Subsequently, the forest department managed to trap a few leopards in cages. Leopard attacks were also reported in Shirur and Manjari, which is just over 15 km from Pune city.
The department had also alerted people about movements of leopards in Sinhagad area.
The growing leopard attacks have caused fear among the people. The damage they suffer due to loss of livestock in such attacks has also upset them. Experts say that such situation increases conflict between man and leopard. As per records obtained from the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), there have been as many as five unnatural deaths of leopards in Pune district in 2015.
As per the WPSI data, in 2015, Maharashtra has seen 38 death of leopards till now. Retaliatory killing is considered to be the main reason behind the killings of over 15 leopards. Deaths of over 11 of them have occurred due to train or vehicle hits.