A leopard sighted on the periphery of a multinational company, located about 500 metres from a township at Hazira, in Surat city, has triggered panic even as forest department has upped efforts to rescue the animal.
Three cages, equipped with 10 night-vision surveillance cameras and baits, besides motion-detector cameras have been installed in the area to rescue the animal that has likely to have strayed into the human habitat from the nearby Vansda National park in Dang, forest officials said.
Two more cages are likely to be put up in the area on Wednes-day, Surat Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF) Puneet Nayyar said on Tuesday. “The leopard was first caught on closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras installed on the premises of the AM/NS Company on Saturday. It was again caught by the cameras installed by the forest department near the cages the next day. It seems (from the footage) the leopard is around three years old. We have put baits in the three cages and are regularly monitoring the movement of the animal. We will install two more cages on Wednesday,” Nayyar told The Indian Express on Tuesday.
The company authorities alerted the forest department after the leopard was caught by the CCTV cameras installed on its premises Saturday. A forest department team that reached the spot found pug marks of the animal near a half-constructed hostel, an unused building, located about 200 metres away. Three cages, camouflaged by trees branches, 10 night-vision and motion-detector cameras were then set up in the area to detect the movement of the animal, officials added.
According to sources, there was panic among residents of nearby areas after the news of leopard sighting spread. Fake messages, forest officials said, were also circulated on social media groups about leopard sightings at Mora and other neighbouring villages in Hazira.
“There are tall bushes near the half-constructed unused building, so the leopard can easily hide there… We are putting all our efforts to rescue the leopard. We have told people not to panic and not to spread rumours on the social media platforms,” Nayyar said.
Due to a shortage of prey base in the forest areas, officials said, wild animals often stray into human habitats in search of food and water. These carnivores hide in the nearby sugarcane fields and hunt domesticated animals, like cattle, dogs, and hens. According to Census 2016, there are over 25 leopards in Vansda National Park in Dang.
To stop the migration of leopards and re-establish their prey base in the forest area, a deer breeding centre was started at Vansda National Park in Dang district a few years ago by the forest department with the help of NGO Nature Club Surat. Forest officer D N Rabari said, “To develop a prey base, we have started the deer breeding centre. On November 20, seven spotted deer, aged between one and two years, were released into the forest areas of the national park.” There are 34 deer, including spotted deer and four-horned antelopes, at the centre.
Krunal Trivedi, the in-charge of the deer breeding centre and Nature Club member, said, “We started the centre a couple of years ago. Over the last year, we have released 29 deer, including 18 four-horned antelope, into the forest. We started by bringing 12 deer from Kankaria zoo in Ahmedabad. We are now planning to bring 12 more spotted deer next month.”
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