A new initiative - Leopard in a Spot - has been launched in Mumbai create a larger awareness about Mumbai's nature and the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) following incidents of human-leopard contact.
Leopard in a Spot is an extension of the Mumbaikars for Sanjay Gandhi National Park (MfSGNP) project that was started in 2011.
The initiative targets the media practitioners of the future -- the students of journalism, PR and advertising. Top researchers, wildlife experts and Maharashtra Forest Department officials speak to the students on various issues.
"It is a unique initiative and we have incorporated the experience of SGNP," said Nikit Surve, a wildlife biologist, who is credited with conducting the first-ever official, scientific census of leopards inside SGNP.
Surve, a research associate with Wildlife Conservation Society-India, has worked closely with Dr Vidya Athreya, a senior wildlife biologist who has worked extensively in Mumbai and Maharashtra.
"Under this banner, we are interacting with media personnel from print, electronic as well as digital media to discuss their roles in wildlife reportage and concentrating on budding journalists from media schools as well," said Surve. The plan is to work with media houses as well in the future, so as to ensure that wildlife is portrayed in a sensitive manner, he said.
Among those sharing their experiences are Mayur Kamath, Wildlife Warden of Mumbai Suburbs, Shailesh Deore, Range Forest Officer, and Sunetro Ghosal of the MfSGNP. "Over the years, we have seen human-leopard interactions on the periphery of SGNP," said Kamath. "In view of this, the role of the media becomes much more important."
Deore discussed a couple of recent cases of leopard rescues in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, the role of the media, the police, and the public. "Sometimes, we land up in difficult situations as the pressure is high and we need to ensure that the leopard is safe, the public is safe, the media is safe," he said.
The SGNP is spread across 103 square kilometres in Mumbai and some parts of neighbouring Palghar and Thane districts. It is home to more than 274 species of birds, 35 species of mammals, 78 species of reptiles and amphibians, 170 species of butterflies, several species of fish and 1,300 species of plants.