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In man-leopard conflict zone, classes on crisis resolution

Colleges near national park on NGO map for imparting lessons in avoiding, dealing with conflict situations

Looking at the increased incidence of human-leopard conflict in recent times, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) has launched an awareness campaign in colleges near Aarey Colony and Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) on dealing with the situation.


Class act: Students at a presentation by the NGO People For Animals on
dealing with the man-animal conflict


People For Animals, the NGO conducting the programme, aims to educate students on the measures that should be taken to avoid a conflict between man and animal.

In a presentation given to the students of Lord's College in Malad (East), the NGO also went over the different species of venomous and non-venomous snakes found in the city and the country.

Colleges near Aarey Colony and SGNP were chosen for the programme as it was felt that most students of these institutions would be residents of nearby areas, which are close to the forest.

Chitranand Pednekar from the NGO's Navi Mumbai branch, which has taken up the initiative, said the idea was to not only equip young people to deal with man-animal conflict situations in the right manner but also to make them understand the importance of preserving wildlife.

"The main reason behind organising such seminars on wildlife is to create awareness among youngsters on why the human-leopard conflict takes place and how to deal with the situation if at all a leopard enters a human habitat," Pednekar said. "It is only through such seminars that youngsters will understand the importance of wildlife and reptiles like snakes, which are very much essential for maintaining the balance in our ecosystem."

Give animals space
Talking about the rising incidents of leopards straying into human settlements close to the SGNP and the Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, Pednekar said humans were to blame for the most part for bringing about this situation. 

"The main reason behind the attack on humans is the encroachment inside the park and on the boundary of the forest. The only solution to the problem is that the forest department should remove all encroachments inside the park limits at the earliest," Pednekar said. "Also, the BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) should raze the illegal structures that stand just a few metres from the border of the park."

Explaining what needs to be done when a leopard strays into a human habitat, a volunteer said people should be careful not to provoke the animal and they should call experts like the forest authorities to handle the situation.

"If a leopard enters a human habitat, the locals should immediately inform the forest officials. If possible, they should also see to it that the leopard is allowed to escape into the nearby forest. Mobs should also not provoke the leopard by making noises as there are chances that the leopard might attack," the volunteer said.

As snakes also surface in human settlements, awareness on dealing with the reptiles was a part of the presentation made by the NGO. Besides educating students on the right thing to do if a snake enters a human settlement, the NGO also went over the do's and don'ts to be followed in case of a snakebite.

Besides the colleges, the NGO also plans to go to schools near the forest areas.

Deadly week of leopard attacks
>> A 12-year-old, Vandana Pingle, who lived with her family in one of the several brick manufacturing units in Virar, was mauled to death by a leopard in the last week of November. She was collecting firewood just a few metres from her brick unit when she was attacked. Forest officials found her half-eaten body inside the jungle after a search. 

>> The half-eaten body of 70-year-old Harishchandra Ghorat was found in the forest near Kashimira, Mira Road, the same week. Ghorat had gone missing a day prior. 

>> Eight-year-old Chiraj Patil was lucky to escape death when a leopard attacked  him as he played near his hut in Shivansai jungle in Virar one evening in November's last week. The boy's screaming as he was being dragged away made the leopard drop  him and disappear into the forest.

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