An 11-year-old boy was mauled to death in a suspected leopard attack in Brahmapuri forest, Chandrapur district in the early hours of Thursday.
The boy, Naitik Santosh Kuthe from Chichgaon village in Sindewahi tahsil, was attacked when he was reportedly out for a morning walk at 5.30 am. He is the 13th leopard attack victim so far in Maharashtra this year.
Meanwhile, the state Forest Department began the annual Wildlife Week celebrations on Thursday. The latest leopard attack underscores how man-wildlife conflict has become a major concern for the state.
Already, tiger attacks have claimed a record 31 deaths in the state this year, all of them in Vidarbha, according to statistics provided by the Forest Department. Most of these deaths have occurred in Chandrapur district, which is home to 200 of the state’s estimated 350 tigers.
The Brahmapuri divisional forest in the district has been the hotbed of man-tiger conflict. Of the 31 fatal tiger attacks, at least 24 occurred in Chandrapur district alone. So far, the Forest Department has had to cage six tigers from the conflict zones of Chandrapur, Yavatmal and Gondia districts.
Since 2010, the total number of human casualties in wildlife attacks in the state has risen to 466. The highest number of deaths in a year was recorded in 2016 at 57. This will likely be surpassed this year as there have been 57 recorded deaths till October 1.
The annual death toll showed a growing trend from 29 in 2010 to 57 in 2016 and 54 in 2017. But the tally dropped to 33 and 39 over the next two years before rising again. Of the 466 deaths since 2010, tigers have caused 153 and leopards 128.
Apart from big cats, among other animals that have caused human deaths are wild boar (89), sloth bear (35) and Indian gaur (20).
“Our focus in this Wildlife Week is non-big cat animals. The idea is to increase awareness about other flora and fauna, many of which are far more endangered than tigers and leopards. Tiger anyway has its own day on July 29. But man-animal conflict is going to be discussed on the last day as it continues to be one of the bigger concerns before us,” said Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) Nitin Kakodkar.
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