'Don't relocate leopard from Mulund area'

Jul 25, 2012, 07:05 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav

Thane Forest Department's plan to set trap near Shankar Tekdi area faces criticism; experts say move to new surroundings could increase chances of animal-human conflict

The Thane Forest Department is planning to install a trap in the Mulund area to capture and relocate a leopard, which killed and ate a six-year-old girl last week. After the incident, residents of the area appealed to the forest department and local politicians that a boundary wall be constructed and a trap be set so that the leopard could be caught and released elsewhere.

On the prowl: Last week Sanjana Thorat, a resident of Shankar Tekdi, which is adjacent to the SGNP in Mulund (West), was attacked by a leopard. Her head was recovered from the thicket, a few hundred metres from the family’s hutment, the next morning. File pic

Asstistant Conservator of Forests Sudhir Padwale said, “We have plans to install a cage in the area to trap the leopard and release it at some other location.”

However, wildlife experts and biologists are not in favour of the plan and believe that the move would only increase the chances of animal-human conflict, since the leopard would not be accustomed to its new surroundings. They suggest resettlement and rehabilitation of people staying in the forest instead to limit chances of such encounters.

According to leopard expert Krishna Tiwari, the chief wildlife warden would have to approve the decision as the leopard comes under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act. “Setting up a cage in the forest is not allowed as per the law. Besides, the area where the girl was killed also comes within the forest boundary,” he said.

Tiwari added, “Trapping a leopard from that area and releasing it somewhere else is not a good idea. That would only increase the chances of human-leopard conflict in the new area, as the animal will be completely new to that area.”

According to experts, humans are not a leopard’s natural prey. The animal could have mistaken the crouching girl for a dog or a deer.

After last week’s attack, the locals have installed halogen lights in the area and children are not allowed to venture outdoors after sunset.

Supreme Court bans tiger tourism
The apex court banned tourism in core areas of the 41 tiger reserves across the country yesterday. The court was hearing a petition filed by an NGO demanding a ban on tourism in core areas of tiger reserves and allowing it only in the buffer areas spread up to 10 km around the critical habitats of the big cats. The court also slammed the state for not notifying the buffer and core areas in tiger reserves and imposed a fine of Rs 10,000. Besides, it has asked the government to demarcate the areas within three weeks. 

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