Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Prey base to be widened to check human-big cat conflict


Prey base to be widened to check human-big cat conflict

Indian Express By Bashir Pathan

Gandhinagar, July 08 Government increases compensation for injuries, death and loss of cattle in leopard attacks


Frequent incidents of leopard attacks on humans have sent alarm bells ringing in the Gujarat Forest department. It has now launched concerted measures to check such incidents across the state. One of these measures includes setting up of breeding centres to increase the prey-base in the forest areas where frequent leopard attacks are reported.


The leopard population in Gujarat was estimated at 999 in the 2002 census, which rose to around 1,070 in 2006. According to a senior forest official, around 80 people have lost their lives and about 600 others have sustained injuries in leopard attacks across the state in the last 12 years, with most of the victims being from central Gujarat, mainly in the tribal-dominated Panchmahals district.


PCCF (Wildlife) Pradeep Khanna said they have already started setting up breeding centres in the forest areas in a bid to create an adequate prey-base for leopards. One such centre has already been set up in the Barda forests in Saurashtra, and another one is proposed in the Dangs, he said.


He said during summers, the big cats often stray out of their habitats in search of water as forest areas particularly in central and north Gujarat face acute water shortage. "As such, the department has now decided to create water holes in the forest areas," said Khanna, adding that "villagers are also being educated on how to protect themselves from the panthers".


Gujarat Forest and Environment Minister Mangubhai Patel told The Indian Express on Tuesday that there has been an increase in leopard attacks of late, mostly due to a shrinking prey-base and increasing human interference in the forests areas.


He expressed serious concern over the Monday incident in which four people sustained serious injuries in a leopard attack at Ratanpur village in Dhanduka taluka of Ahmedabad district. "I have directed senior officials of my department to launch efforts to check such incidents," the minister said.


Former state Chief Wildlife Warden G A Patel said the increasing unauthorised cultivation in forest areas along with dwindling forest cover and human interference were prompting the big cats to attack humans.


"The forest department will have to chalk out a detailed plan to curb the increasing human activities in the forest areas, improve the forest cover and augment the prey-base to avoid animal-man conflicts. There is an urgent need to increase the number of herbivorous animals like chital, wild boar, chowsingha, deer and languor so as to create an adequate prey-base for the leopards," said Patel. He is presently on the five-member panel set up by the Union Environment and Forest Ministry for "Rationalisation of Boundaries of National Parks and Sanctuaries".


Patel added that leopard attacks on humans are rarely reported from the Gir forest area where there is sufficient prey-base available. The population of angulets in the Gir forests is estimated at over 70,000, making a sizeable prey-base for not only leopards, but also for the world famous Asiatic Lions. The Gir forest has over 250 leopards.


Meanwhile, the department has also decided to increase the compensation amount for minor and grievous injuries in leopard attacks. The compensation amount has been raised from Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 for minor injuries and from Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000 for grievous injuries caused to humans by the big cats. The compensation in case of a loss of human life in a leopard attack has been fixed at Rs one lakh.


Similarly, the compensation for herbivorous animals killed in leopard attacks has increased by 40 per cent.


A compensation of Rs 8,000 and 5,000 has been fixed for a milch cow and buffalo. The compensation for a bull aged over two years has been fixed at Rs 6,000. For a younger bull, the amount is now Rs 3,500. The compensation rates for cattle have been fixed at Rs 550 for sheep, Rs 425 for goat, Rs 5,000 for camel and Rs 7,500 for horse.

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