Garbage attracts leopards to human habitation

Karnataka has lost 95 leopards in three years

The cases of leopards entering human habitation has increased in the recent past due to the increasing garbage menace, say forest officials of various tiger reserves in the State.

The officials and the NGOs working with them opine that piled-up garbage attracts street dogs and wild boars, which leopards prey on and thus their presence is sighted more often.

Karnataka has lost 95 leopards in the last three years. Cases of leopards entering human habitations have also increased in different parts of the State. In the last two years, around 40 leopards have been relocated to different habitats.

According to statistics provided by the State Forest department, 95 leopards have died between January 2011 and September 1, 2014. In the past one year, of the six radio-collared leopards, two have died.

Analysing the statistics, wildlife experts pressed the need for a detailed assessment of man-animal conflicts, leopard deaths and measures to check them. They also suggested that there was a need for a census to ascertain the number of leopards in the State.

Radio collars failed
Also, people's tolerance level with leopards has reduced which has created more conflicts. Radio collaring too has failed because villagers inform officials of the dead animals, but not the tracking devices, the officials added.

According to the forest department officials, from January 2011 to September 1, 2014, five people were killed by leopards, two in 2011-12, two during 2012-13 and one in 2013-September 1, 2014.

In regard to leopard deaths – 33 leopard deaths were reported in 2011-12, 38 in 2012-13 and 24 in 2013- till September 1, 2014. Over 10 rescued leopards have made Bannerghatta Biological Park their home in the last three years, they added.

No population data
Leopards are Schedule One species, under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. The Ministry of Environment and Forests guidelines and report released in 2011 lists a set of rules to be followed while treating leopards, including relocating, collaring and permissions, which is not happening. But there is no data with the department on the leopard population.

Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (wildlife) Vinay Luthra told Deccan Herald, “We do not do census of leopards outside forest areas as the area is large. We collared some leopards of which two died and in two other cases, the collar got removed. Collars, which have been made by the Indian Institute of Science Bangalore, at a cost of Rs 40,000 each, are programmed in such a way that they unlock and fall off in two years. But in these cases, it was not successful. The number of deaths is alarming and we are sensitising people on how to protect themselves and not harm the animal. But people moving close to the forest boundary is also a problem that needs to be addressed.”

However, noted tiger scientist and Director of Centre for Wildlife Studies K Ullas Karanth said leopards have been breeding in human habitation for decades and it is difficult, but not impossible, to ascertain the leopard population outside forest areas. With proper resources and knowledge, it can be done here, too, and rough estimates have been made in Maharashtra as well, he added.

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