'Relocating leopard worsen conflict'

Setting up trap cages and relocating leopards from one region to another are some of the key causes aggravating human-animal conflict, according to a study conducted here in the forests surrounding Mumbai suburbs.

The study jointly carried out by Centre for Wildlife Studies, Bangalore, Maharashtra Forest Department and Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP, Borivli-Mumbai), dispelling the long-standing myth harboured by lay persons that trapping the animal is the most feasible solution, the research states, “pressurising the forest department to set up a trap cage is actually the worst”.

The one-year study, “Assess and Assist Leopard Conservation & to Mitigate the Man-Animal Conflict in & around SGNP Involving the Citizens,” points out that relocating leopards aggravates and compounds the problem; leopards travel hundreds of kilometres and any removal brings others to occupy the empty territory.

“Moreover, sometimes when a mother is removed and her sub-adult cub is left behind, the cub may create more problems without the guidance of the mother who would have spent two to three years teaching it to hunt, to avoid humans and other survival skills. Thus, if there are leopards living in an area without attacking humans, it is important that the same leopards are allowed to remain in the area as they never attack a human unless provoked,” the study advises.

According to project co-ordinator Vidya Athreya of Centre for Wildlife Studies, Bangalore: “When a big cat is trapped in a cage and shifted to an alien place where all the bearings are new, then these attacks take place.

And more important is the fact that one should realise and understand that forests are the home and habitat of animals. So mere sightings of animals or leopards do not translate into danger. In fact, in several tribal padas and buildings on the edges of forests, scores of studies–both zoological as well as sociological–have shown that both animals and human beings co-exist without coming into conflict. 

There are hardly any attacks reported.  Most of the attacks crop up only when a big cat from some far off forest is released or when poachers injure a leopard or kill the mother....then you have young orphaned cubs...this can have negative consequences.”

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