More leopards moving in to human neighbourhoods
Times of India By HImanshu Kaushik
Of the total 1,160 leopards in the state, 207 are staying outside jungles, close to people. What`s more, this number is constantly going up. The recently concluded census found that this number of leopards shifting out of the jungle has risen by more than 40 per cent since the last census conducted in 2006.
Of the 207, 136 were found in Junagadh district alone. This is 65 per cent of the total leopard population in areas close to human habitations. And this was mainly because of the Gir Sanctuary and Girnar sanctuaries in the district. The state forest department officials said that in 2006 there were 73 leopards close to human habitat in Junagadh, this was 49 per cent of the 147 leopards spotted close to human habitat in the state.
Confirming the same, principal secretary S K Nanda said that the total increase of 60 leopards in the areas close to humans habitation was limited to Junagadh in Saurashtra and Mandvi in south Gujarat. He said that with the growing population of lions in the Gir Sanctuary, leopard have been elbowed out. Moreover, leopards love sugarcane fields and with the increase in cultivation of this crop in Saurashtra and Mandvi, the leopard has found a safe refuge.
A forest official said that the leopards were moving out of the protected area because of the increasing cattle grazing pressure on the forest areas. He said that the natural habitat of the wildlife was shrinking because of the degradation of the forest.
Additional principal chief conservator of forests H S Singh said, "Man-animal conflict was increasing not only in case of leopard but also sloth bear. And this because the wildlife population is increasing." Sharing the leopard rescue data, he said that the number of leopard rescue operations over the last ten years has increased by five times. He said that the habitat has remained the same and the population was growing and this was the reason why the animals were moving out.
Principal conservator of forests Pradeep Khanna talked about a case where a leopard in Mandvi had to be killed as it had turned man-eater. "In the past two more leopards had to be killed in Baria in Saurashtra after they were found to be disturbing other animals," Khanna said.
In December last year, Yuvraj of the erstwhile state of Utelia near Dhandhuka, Bhagirathsinh Vaghela, shot dead a leopard that was believed to have turned man-eater. Forest officials believe the leopard killed three people in Mandvi taluka of Surat. The killing was done at the behest of forest officials.
Whose pug mark is it anyway?: The enumerators were puzzled between the leopard pug marks and the lion pug marks. Additional principal chief conservator of forest H S Singh said that the pug mark of one-year-old lion cub are similar to that of the leopard. This problem was faced more in the Gir area. Singh said that after the initial observations, the enumerators were told that a lion cub cannot be alone and hence they should look for other pug marks also. "A lion cub of one year cannot be alone and will always have a male or a female lion close by. So we were able to avoid the possible error," said Singh.
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