Following a surge in man-animal conflict in Nashik farmlands, the state forest department has caught six leopards since July 2. Suspected leopard attacks have left at least five dead and as many seriously injured, including two children, in a 12-km stretch along Darna river in the district, since December last year, officials said.
On Wednesday, an adult male leopard — the sixth in a month — was caught in a cage put up by the Nashik’s forest department team. The team suspects the animal might be the elusive leopard responsible for the attacks. The leopard’s scat and swab samples were sent to Hyderabad’s Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), for DNA confirmation.
Following the attacks, the Nashik forest officials had placed 20 traps to catch the animal. Four leopards trapped earlier were sent to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park’s rescue centre in Mumbai. While a fifth leopard, a female, rescued from a well, was released.
Vivek Bhadane, Range Forest Officer (RFO), Nashik said, “Farmlands provide shelter to these big cats and their presence in the area is not new. However, the continuous attacks have raised a concern for the safety of villagers. There is fear among villagers and tremendous pressure from the locals to capture the leopard(s).”
Senior forest officials said the rising man-animal conflict was a matter of concern, but capturing the big cats was not the solution. “Once we have caught the problem animal, immediate efforts will be made to rehabilitate the captured leopards. We have ensured minimal human imprint during their temporary stay in captivity,” said Sunil Limaye, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife West). Limaye added, “A year-long programme, called ‘living with leopards’, will begin in the area from the first week of August. Under the programme, villagers will be educated about coexisting with leopards, for example, not to tie cattle or dogs outside their houses at night, not to visit farms at night, among others. Schoolchildren will be taught about leopards and their habitat. A primary response team, which will include locals, will also be set up to coordinate and alert the forest guards.”
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