Monday, December 19, 2011

Lunging to save leopards.

Lunging to save leopards.
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik

Twenty-one leopards were rescued in 2000-01. The number has now jumped to 161 in 2010-11. Majority of the rescue operations for leopards have been outside forest areas. A senior officer said that with sugar cultivation growing in several parts of the state, leopards are also moving into these fields.

An officer said that in Saurashtra or south Gujarat, sugarcane fields are the favourite dwelling place for leopards. During the leopard census held earlier this year, the fact that sugarcane fields were the most favoured destination was corroborated by the big cat's presence there and many pug marks found in these fields.

Chief conservator of forest, R L Meena said, "Sugarcane fields are important hideouts for leopards. With cultivation of sugarcane increasing in Kodinar and Una, leopards are moving out of forests and going to these areas. The animals have made the fields their homes. The fields are comparatively cool and also attract dogs and small animals which are easy prey for leopards.

The tall sugarcane plants are preferred by the big cats because they provide adequate cover and protection, and also breed in these sugarcane farms. Fields in Una, Talala, Kodinar in Saurashtra, and fields in south Gujarat and Vadodara have a good population of leopards. Forest officials said these are not their permanent homes, as these animals keep switching between the forest area and the fields.

With leopards moving out, the manleopard conflicts are also on an increase. There have been at least five to six incidents where humans have been attacked by leopards in the past months. In majority of the cases, leopards which were rescued had been too close to human habitat.
A large number of leopards were also rescued from unsecure wells outside the forest area. There are over 10,000 unsecure wells outside the area from Dhari in Amreli to Mahuva in Bhavnagar. Additional principal conservator of forest H S Singh said, "The leopard population in Gujarat has doubled in the last 20 years. There are 500 leopards in Gir and nearby areas."

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