The visitors from Uttarakhand who visited Aarey Milk Colony as well
Sanjay Gandhi National Park, which is a wonderful example of human-leopard co-existence, will now teach Uttarakhand's Jim Corbett National Park how to live with leopards.
The forest department teams from Uttarakhand who were in Mumbai told mid-day that reducing the shooting of leopards would be their priority. They would form a leopard rescue team with the help of SGNP rescue teams to reach conflict-hit villages. Apart from that, emphasis will be on creating awareness.
On an average, 200 human-leopard conflict incidents are reported in Uttarakhand every year and around five leopards, termed man-eaters, are shot dead annually. Villagers from Almora, Pauri and Tehri districts of Uttarakhand were also part of the visit.
The vistitors roamed the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Aarey Milk Colony and the Junnar district in Pune, where they interacted with the tribal community and villagers who have been co-existing in complete harmony with leopards.
Range Forest Officer (RFO) from SGNP Shailesh Deore, who interacted with the Uttarkhand team, said, “When they first arrived in Mumbai they could not believe that despite having one of the highest densities of leopards in the world, there had been zero conflict in the last three years. We explained to them the techniques we used to reduce the conflict, such as awareness drives in tribal hamlets, slum pockets and also at police stations on the park’s periphery.
"We took them to various places where they interacted with locals and understood that if there was proper coordination between the people, forest department and the police, leopards could survive."
Assistant Conservator of Forest (ACF) from Uttarakhand Forest Department said, "We have learned a lot from this visit. Once we reach Uttarakhand, we will have a meeting with the police department, media and also the villagers and draft a protocol to deal with human-leopard conflicts. We will focus on setting up a leopard rescue team that will immediately rush to the conflict site and handle the situation. Awareness programmes will be conducted on a regular basis, where we will showcase Mumbai’s stories of human-leopard co-existance."
The villagers and FD officials from Uttarakhand appreciated the work done by the ‘Mumbaikars for SGNP' initiative that was started by then SGNP Director Sunil Limaye along with Biologist Dr Vidya Athreya and her team of volunteers.
The MfSGNP team along with SGNP Leopard rescue team has been constantly conducting leopard awareness programmes, which resulted in zero leopard conflict in the last three years.