Don't punish innocent leopards; Thane Forest Department to its staff

Oct 04, 2017, 15:17 IST | A Correspondent

Training session on collecting evidence from man-animal conflict sites, in a bid to ensure that the wrong leopard isn't trapped, to be held soon

The Thane Forest Department wants to ensure that no innocent leopard is trapped during dangerous situations of man-animal conflict. And to that end, it will soon organise a training session for its staff on collection of forensic evidence from the site of conflict, including hair samples.

Baiji Bandre has injuries on her left leg and handBaiji Bandre has injuries on her left leg and hand

Chief Conservator of Forests, Thane (Territorial), Sunil Limaye said, "The aim of the session will be to train the staff on collecting crucial evidence like hair and blood samples of the animal, which can be later used for DNA analysis. They will be taught the accurate procedures they need to follow in such situations."

NGO demands
The move follows a letter by Mumbai-based Plants and Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) to the principal chief conservator of forests and chief wildlife warden, demanding a scientific and rational Standard Operating Procedure or proper guidelines for declaring a leopard 'man-eater'. The NGO had questioned the forest department whether it had really managed to trap the correct leopard behind the attacks in Aarey colony and Film City area.

The leopard that had been trapped in Aarey was never declared a man-eater, with the forest department only calling it a 'suspected leopard'. In its letter, PAWS demanded that, in leopard attack cases, the department collect evidence (saliva) from the bites on the victim's body by coordinating with the hospital to which s/he has been taken to and send the same to a forensic lab for DNA testing.

Push for DNA analysis
"If a leopard is trapped, its DNA should be analysed and matched with the samples taken from victims' bodies to ascertain the culpability of that leopard in the attack. Report of such DNA analyses should be obtained as early as possible; if involvement of that particular leopard is found, only then it should be labeled as a man-eater. Otherwise, the animal should be released in the wild as soon as possible (within a month) to prevent it from being automatically tamed as per the MoEF's Guidelines for Human Leopard Conflict Management issued in April 2011," the letter had stated.

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