Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Nine leopards killed in 5 years

Nine leopards killed in 5 years
Times of India

At least nine leopards have been killed by villagers in Saurashtra, Banaskantha and Dang in the last five years. Of these, five were killed in Saurashtra region alone.

"Leopards are being killed in the region where people take care of another big cat - the Asiatic lions. Even if a farmer sees his cattle being attacked by a lion, he would not interfere, but if a leopard is involved, they will attack it," said a senior forest officer.

Going by the state government figures given in the assembly in reply to Jodia MLA Raghavji Patel's question, between 2007-08 and 2010-11 one leopard was killed in Banaskantha, Bhavnagar and Amreli district each, while three leopards were killed in Dang and Junagadh.

It is clear that the number of leopard-human conflict is on the rise not because of its increasing population but because of it straying out in search of its favourite food like monkeys and dogs, said the officials.

They said that the leopard census taken up in 2011 revealed that the population is up by 8.41 per cent. The count has increased to 1,140 from 1,070 (as per the count in 2006). Officials said that the highest density of leopard is in Junagadh district, which has the population of 385 leopards.

The census revealed that more than 50 per cent of the population stays in close proximity to human beings. The natural habitat of the wildlife is shrinking because of the degradation of the forest. The government's decision to give land to adivasis in the forest areas has driven away the prey base for the big cats into the open area and this has resulted in the big cats moving out of the sanctuary.

Officials in the forest department, refusing to be quoted, said, "The leopards are venturing into sugarcane fields." They said they take shelter in sugarcane fields in search of cats, dogs and even small animals, and are not spotted from a distance. But as one gets into the field, human-animal conflict occurs, they added.

In Junagadh alone, about 60 attacks on humans have been reported, of which over 90 per cent were by leopards, they said.

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