Thursday, March 29, 2018

Leopards near human habitats cause of concern

| Updated: Mar 25, 2018, 10:54 IST
RAJKOT: Rampant leopard attacks on humans are giving people in several villages of Gir and Greater Gir sleepless nights.
Official figures reveal that there was have been 108 incidents of leopard attacks on humans in the last two years (till February 2018) in which nine persons have been killed by the wildcat, while many others have sustained critical injuries. The figures are of Junagadh, Gir-Somnath and Amreli districts.

According to forest department data, there were 64 attacks on humans in 2016-17 in which five people died, while the number in 2017-18 till February was 44 that left four people dead. Last census revealed that there were 1,350 leopards in Gujarat of which around 450-500 were seen in revenue areas close to human population. Wildlife experts say increasing lion population has further led to more leopards being sighted in revenue areas of Gir and surrounding regions.

Wildlife board member Bhushan Pandya says, “Leopard has no competition in jungle except lions and that’s why their population is increasing. Gujarat has the highest population growth of leopards in the country. As it is a protected animal under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, government needs to do a scientific study to curb its population.”

Forest department says migrant labourers sleeping in shanties outside have been the main target of leopards as many of them cook non-veg food there. However, experts don’t fully agree to this.

A wildlife expert Priyvrat Gadhvi said, “Labourers sleeping outside may be easy targets for leopards. But there is an urgent need to sensitize and educate them about wildcats. I had raised this issue in the last wildlife board meeting.

Forest department captures the attacking leopard, but it’s a headache for officials to house these leopards. For, zoo authorities have no space now and they also don’t want to keep attacker leopards.

Curb the population of leopards...? I am sorry and with due respect, this is the least expected from a State Wildlife Advisory Board member.Jaidev Dhadhal

Chief conservator of forest (CCF), Junagadh circle, S K Mehta admits that increasing population of leopards is also a problem. “Despite awareness programmes, people in villages where leopards are commonly seen, continue to sleep in the open.”

In 2017, leopard had killed at least four kids below the age of eight in these districts.

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