Lesson from wild cat's day out: Ad hoc measures won't do

Lesson from wild cat's day out: Ad hoc measures won't do

Taking a cue from the mishandled leopard rescue operation at a City school on Sunday, the Forest department is drawing up plans for a dedicated response team and a state-of-the-art rescue vehicle.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, Dipika Bajpai, Deputy Conservator of Forests, Bengaluru Urban, said that the department did have a rescue management team, but in the wake of Sunday’s incident, there was a need for a better one. The department was drawing up a proposal to send to the government for a more professional team with gadgets to handle crises. On Sunday, there were no children in the school. Things would have gone worse if they were children or had the leopard entered residential areas or high-rise buildings.

The present rescue management team does not comprise officials dedicated to rescue operations, like NSG commandos. They are not specifically trained to handle emergency situations. The team comprises of six officials including range forest officers, zoo veterinarians and watchers. They work in other sections and are called on a need basis.

She said that there was a need for a dedicated rescue vehicle with state-of-the-art technology besides tranquilisers, sticks, crackers, ladder and nets. This saves crucial time wasted in gathering materials.

Given the increasing man-animal conflict cases, the department will start awareness campaigns on the fringes of the forest. This will be done in schools, communities, local habitations and other places in the City. All areas where conflict can happen or have happened will be listed and drives will be conducted. This is the need of the hour, Ravi Ralph, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF-wildlife), said.

Tiger expert K Ullas Karanth said the Forest department should form full-fledged professional animal damage control teams.

The report prepared by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests - Guidelines for Human-Leopard Conflict Management - states that there should be primary response teams in place, comprising volunteers from local communities and forest officials. They should be trained to quickly respond to conflicts. Their aim should be to restrict people from going near the rescue site. There should also be proper coordination among the police, local administration and other departments. Former PCCF Avani Kumar Verma also pointed out the need for a quick response team.

Requests for ban orders
A senior forest department official said that despite requests being made to the Bengaluru Urban Deputy Commissioner and police officials to impose ban orders under IPC Section 144 around the school, they were ignored.

Such a ban was required as scores of people had gathered and the operation was hampered. The ban would have also restricted the number of conservationists and rescue people crowding the area. Vidya Athreya, research associate with the Centre for Wildlife Studies and Wildlife Conservation Society-India, said had the ban been implemented, the rescue process would have been smooth.  V Shankar, Bengaluru Urban DC, said that the order should have come from the police commissioner as it is his jurisdiction in commissionerate areas and that he (DC) could issue orders in other parts of Bengaluru Urban district. “However, I have taken note of the situation. A list of detailed precautionary measures to take in such emergencies will be issued,” Shankar said. When contacted, City Police Commissioner N S Megharikh refused to comment.

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