Fear rises over wildlife sightings

A leopard attacked a dog on a farm earlier this week. With the onset of summer, more and more wild animals are straying into the city, and the forest department receives at least three SOS calls a day.
Last Updated 28 March 2019, 20:14 IST

Launched a year ago, the helpline of the Karnataka forest department (1926) gets 25 to 30 calls a day.

Among them, at least three are related to man-animal conflicts. Callers talk about leopard and cheetah sightings, and seek help to take away a snake or monkey straying into their homes.

The calls come mostly from people living on the outskirts of Bengaluru.

Last week, a leopard attacked a pet dog at a farm in Marenahalli, adjacent to the Tippagondanahalli reservoir, about 30 km from Bengaluru.

Dilip Shirolikar bought the farm, off Magadi Road, 10 years ago. “There has never been such an incident before,” he says.

Shirolikar, farm owner.
Shirolikar, farm owner.

His watchman had tied two of his pets, Bira and Feny, outside a shed used to park his car. It was around 3 am when a leopard attacked Bira viciously.

CCTV footage shows how the big cat stealthily approached the sleeping dogs and launched an attack. The leopard bit Bira on the neck, and tried to carry it away. The dog was chained though.

Bira put up a valiant fight, and survived. He is in hospital now, and doctors say he might recover despite the trauma and the deep wounds.

“They have put him under observation,” says Shirolikar, who fears for the safety of villagers living in the vicinity of the reservoir. Leopard sightings on the city’s outskirts are common these days, say forest officials. Dipika Bajpai, deputy conservator of forests (Bangalore Urban), says the maximum number of cases are reported from Yelahanka, Kanakapura, Magadi Road and Hesaraghatta.
“The leopards have always been around. This is not a new phenomenon. Now, because of summer, they come out more often to drink water and find prey,” says Dipika.

The forests around the city see both transit and resident leopards.

“Increasing garbage attracts stray dogs and leopards find stray dogs an easy prey. They can also survive on small rats and bandicoots,” says Dipika.

Stone quarries across the city, especially in the southern parts, also attract leopards, she says. “They find stone quarries a good place to hide because the small crevices sometimes hold water. Places such as IISc, ISRO, and the ITC factory, with forested spaces, also serve as perfect spots for leopards to rest,” she says.

Sanjay Gubbi, wildlife biologist, says humans have encroached on the natural habitat of leopards. “The leopards have always been around, it is just that urbanisation has spread and eaten into their spaces,” he told Metrolife. Rocky terrains and scrubs are perfect for leopards to hide, he says, urging the government to protect their habitats.

How to keep leopards away

Experts offer some tips

- Keep the vicinity well lit. Animals stay away from well -lit places.

- Tie pets indoors, and never in the open air.

- If you are walking in a forested area, play music on your mobile phone.

- Keep talking if you have company.

- Don’t panic if you see a leopard. Walk away slowly without alarming it.

- Reduce garbage piling up on your farm.

- Don’t dispose of meat waste in the open.

Forest helpline: Call 1926

It gets 25-30 calls a day, and they mostly relate to:

- Tree felling

- Forest fires

- Sighting of snakes

- Monkeys entering homes

- Trekking queries

(Published 28 March 2019, 12:13 IST)

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