The report prepared by biologist and principal researcher Vidya Athreya along with the Forest Department as part of the ‘Mumbaikars for SGNP (Sanjay Gandhi National Park)’ was made public on Thursday.
The report has brought to light some shocking facts, one of which is that the main reason behind the leopard attacks in Aarey Colony might be because of the presence of 700 stray dogs in the vicinity.
The date of leopard images captured by setting of camera traps states that there are 21 leopards in SGNP and Aarey colony.
The report has also answered questions raised by some experts that leopards were coming out of the forest because there is shortage of prey.
The study of herbivores suggests that presence of both - chital and sambar - which are potential prey of leopards, seems to be most abundant in the central, southern and western parts of the park.
Detections of wild pigs and four-horned antelopes were very sparse, indicating their possible low density throughout the park.
Speaking on the occasion Athreya said, “A minimum of 21 adult leopard individuals were identified using camera trap images in SGNP and the surrounding areas of Aarey Colony. We also did a study on the dog population, which provides easy prey base to leopards. The area has high density of dogs, approximately 57 per sq km."
"Occurrence of fire, followed by local collection of wood, grass and fruits seemed to be the most common forms of human disturbance and therefore management may need to address these threats first. It is recommended that positive human presence (Forest Department and wildlife viewers) be increased in the northern and eastern parts of the Park,” she said.
The media was also briefed on the biodiversity of the park. Visits to Tulsi Lake and to the conflict site in Aarey colony where a leopard had killed a human being were also done.
After visiting the conflict site, experts pointed out that attacks in Aarey Colony can be reduced if the area is kept clean and if people avoid going to bushes after dark to answer nature's call.
“Most of the attacks that took place in Aarey were because of human mistake as people sitting in crouching position were attacked by the leopard. If the control on dumping of garbage and cattle carcasses is stopped then we can avert leopard attacks,” said Wildlife Expert Krishna Tiwari
The issue about the trapping of leopards was also discussed and experts pointed out to the forest department that trapping the animal is not a right idea as it will only worsen the man-animal conflict.
“Whenever an animal from one area is captured, another animal comes and occupies its space and so thinking that the area will remain free from animals is wrong. Another important thing is that research conducted in the past has shown that translocation of animal or releasing the trapped animal at another location only worsens the issue in the new area where the animal is released,” Athreya added.
About Mumbaikars for SGNP Project
Mumbaikars for SGNP (MFSGNP), a year-long project, was primarily initiated to address the human-leopard conflict in SGNP.
It was a collaborative effort between the Forest Department, Centre for Wildlife Studies (Bangalore) and members of civil society to try and understand more about the conflict and plan for future mitigatory actions.
The project had set tasks like obtaining baseline data on number of leopards in SGNP, assessing prey population - both wild and domestic - identifying patterns of conflict to derive logical explanations, assessing stakeholders’ perception towards conflict and the dissemination of the research findings among stakeholders.
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