28 man-leopard conflicts took place in last 10 years: SGNP survey

Mar 01, 2014, 09:35 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav

According to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park officials, the number includes incidents when big cats were trapped, rescued and killed

The man-animal clashes over the last decade have increased. According to data obtained from officials at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), a total of 28 leopards were trapped and rescued in the last 10 years, that is, between 2004 and 2014.

Graphic/Amit Bandre

A majority of the animals 24 were trapped in Aarey Milk Colony, and three were rescued from Powai. One cub was killed when a car knocked it down. The Aarey colony falls under the Mumbai Territorial Range of the Thane Forest Department. Wildlife experts and locals blame the fast-disappearing forest cover and rising encroachments.

Chandu Jadhav, a tribal who lives in Vanichapada, said, “We have never been in favour of trapping leopards, because we know humans and leopards can coexist. The main reason for the rise in man-animal conflict cases in Aarey Colony is increasing encroachment and decreasing forest cover. When people grab the leopard’s territory, the attack is natural.”

Aarey Milk Colony spans about 16 sq km, with about seven padas (villages) of the tribal Warli community. But there are more than 20 slums inside. “Trapping a leopard and trans-locating it is not a solution, because attacks will happen in the new area where the leopard is released. In Aarey Milk Colony, no agency has kept a tab on the illegal slums.

The colony is rapidly losing its forest cover; if this continues, we won’t have any leopards left. The encroachments need to be cleared to give the animals a proper territory to move,” says Krishna Tiwari, wildlife expert, Forest & Wildlife Conservation Centre.

Forest department says
Trapping the animal is not the only solution, but we have to do it because of pressure from the locals, and in order to avoid further conflicts. One of the important reasons for the conflicts in Aarey Milk Colony is the illegal garbage dumping by more than 40 thousand people staying in slums and padas.

Dogs get attracted to the garbage and as dogs are easy prey, the leopards hunt the dogs, thus resulting into a man-animal conflict. The conflict cases and (subsequent) trapping will decrease if the increasing encroachments are controlled, the area surrounding the houses are kept clean and people take precautions while venturing out after dusk and before dawn. - K P Singh, chief conservator of forests, Thane forest department

'Rescue' vs 'Trap'
An animal is ‘rescued’ when it is caught after it strays into human habitat, and ‘trapped’ when it is caught after an attack. It is later released back into the forest.

Expert opinion
I feel the main reason behind the rising number of man-animal conflicts at Aarey colony is the random trapping of leopards done in 2004. Trapping and translocation of leopards creates more problems, as the animal that is trapped from one place and released at another place is new to the area; in such cases, the human-animal conflicts increase. - Vidya Athreya, biologist and leopard expert

>> Most incidents reported inside Aarey Milk Colony
>> Wildlife experts blame decreasing forest cover, rising encroachments

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