Today, this newspaper has run a story on one of the prime reasons for leopards from the Sanjay Gandhi National Park venturing into the Aarey Colony. Carcasses of calves that die during the delivery process are routinely dumped into an open area that leopards have easy access to.
While leopards are not scavengers by nature, easy access to ready meat in the form of dead calves makes them. Therefore, the problem of leopards in Mumbai is not only that humans have encroached upon what is rightfully their territory, but also that human behaviour is turning them into something they are not. This poses a clear and present danger to the very nature of these wild animals.
It is not that their capture and relocation helps. As studies over the years have shown, if one livestock eating leopard is caught and kept under observation or sent to another area, some other leopard takes its place. Leopards preying on human babies or livestock or dogs is not uncommon. After all, it is humans that encroach into their territory, not vice versa. So, what really is the solution to this problem that is accentuated in Mumbai because the density of leopards in a small area is steadily increasing?
Unfortunately, there seems to be no permanent solution apart from strictly maintaining a fenced area between humans and animals. Throughout the world, this has proved a futile exercise as there are more than just environment factors involved politics being one in Mumbai.
The other solution is to create awareness in schools, colleges and even corporate firms about the importance of leopards and wild animals to the ecology and how humans should avoid entering their territory for their own sake. It is not an easy road ahead if we have to preserve our city’s ecological balance. But you need to start somewhere.