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Growing leopard attacks in urban pockets of U’khand

  • Published
    18th Jan, 2024
Context

In response to the recent leopard attacks on two children within a week, the forest department has increased its alert status.

Leopard and India

  • Leopard attacks: With the burgeoning leopard population in Uttarakhand, a state renowned for its rich wildlife, there has been a parallel surge in incidents of leopard encroachment and attacks.

Alarming Escalation in Attacks

  • Leopard-related incidents, once confined to rural regions, are now escalating in frequency, posing a significant threat to densely populated areas.

About Leopards in India

  • Leopards, with their majestic spotted coats and stealthy demeanor, play a crucial role in India's diverse ecosystem.
  • These enigmatic big cats are not only a symbol of strength and agility but also serve as keystone species, contributing significantly to maintaining the delicate balance of the ecosystem.

Habitat

  • Leopards in India are highly adaptable and can thrive in various habitats, ranging from dense forests and grasslands to arid regions and mountainous terrains.
  • They are known to inhabit both tropical and subtropical landscapes, showcasing their remarkable ability to coexist with diverse environmental conditions.

Keystone Species

  • As keystone species, leopards exert a disproportionately large influence on their ecosystems.
  • Their presence helps regulate prey populations, preventing overgrazing and promoting biodiversity.
  • By controlling herbivore numbers, leopards indirectly support the health and vitality of plant communities, showcasing their vital role in maintaining the ecological balance.

Prey Base

  • Leopards display remarkable adaptability in their diet, preying on a wide range of animals.
  • Their diet includes but is not limited to deer, wild boars, monkeys, and smaller mammals.
  • This versatility in prey selection allows leopards to thrive in diverse habitats and ensures their survival even when specific prey species become scarce.

Geographic Distribution

  • Leopards are found across various regions in India, showcasing their ability to adapt to different climates and landscapes.
  • Some of the prominent areas where leopards are spotted include the Western Ghats, Eastern Ghats, the Himalayan foothills, and the central Indian forests.
  • Their presence is not limited to protected reserves, as leopards often navigate through human-dominated landscapes, adding to the complexity of wildlife conservation efforts.

Conservation Challenges

  • Despite their adaptability, leopards face numerous challenges in India, primarily due to habitat loss, human-wildlife conflicts, and poaching.
  • As human populations expand, conflicts between leopards and communities escalate, highlighting the need for comprehensive conservation strategies that consider both the needs of people and the conservation of these magnificent predators.

Conservation Initiatives

  • India has undertaken various conservation initiatives to protect leopards and their habitats.
  • The establishment of wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, coupled with community-based conservation programs, aims to mitigate human-leopard conflicts and preserve crucial habitats.

 Recent Tragic Incident in Nanakmatta

  • Nanakmatta incident: A tragic incident unfolded in Nanakmatta where a four-year-old boy fell victim to a fatal leopard attack while playing in a field.

Forest Department's Response

  • Chief Wildlife Warden: To address the growing crisis, Chief Wildlife Warden announced a comprehensive work plan, responding to the changing circumstances.
  • Precautionary measures: The Chief Minister's directive has led the State Forest Chief to instruct all Divisional Forest Officers (DFOs) to implement precautionary measures in their respective areas.

Awareness Campaigns

  • Recognizing the urgency, DFOs have been tasked with conducting awareness campaigns as a top priority.

Public Cautioned Against Rumor-Mongering

  • Unchecked rumors: Chief Wildlife Warden advised the public against spreading unchecked information and rumors about leopards on social media platforms.

High Alert from Police and Forest Department

  • In response to the heightened threat, both the police and forest department are on high alert.
  • Public Safety: Rajpur and Raipur police stations are using loudspeakers on patrol vehicles to notify residents and ensure public safety.

What are the suggestions made by the committee?

Standing committee of the State Board of Wildlife (SBWL)

  • The new bill provides provision to create a Standing committee of the State Board of Wildlife (SBWL) to make the functioning of SBWL more purposive and target-oriented.
  • Composition:
  • 1/3rd of non-official members of the SBWL
  • 3 institutional Members
  • Director of Wild Life Institute of India
  • Standing Committee can take the powers of the State Board for Wildlife (SBWL) and take decisions independently.

Human-Animal Conflict (HAC) Advisory Council

  • Committee has recommended setting up HAC Advisory Body to tackle the growing instances of Human-Animal Conflict.
  • HAC Advisory Committee will be chaired by Chief Wildlife Warden.
  • The Advisory Committee has the power to make site-specific plans and mitigation measures, which may include changing cropping patterns and critical decisions at short notice.

Elements of Human-Wildlife conflict management:

  • Understanding the conflict: Research all aspects of the conflict profile to understand the context for conflict in any given situation (hotspot mapping, community attitudes, spatial and temporal characteristics, etc.)
  • Mitigation: Reducing the impacts of HWC after it occurs (compensation, insurance, alternative livelihoods, etc.)
  • Response: Addressing an on-going HWC incident (response teams, reporting mechanisms, standard operating procedures, etc.)
  • Prevention: Stopping or preventing HWC before it occurs (fences, early detection tools, safe working environments, etc.)
  • Policy: Enabling HWC management through protocols, principles, provisions, and measures stipulated in the legislation and undertaken by authorities (international and national law, national and local HWC management plans, spatial plans, etc.)
  • Monitoring: Measuring the performance and effectiveness of HWC management interventions over time (data collection, information sharing, adaptive management, etc.)

Way Forward and Ongoing Vigilance

  • The recent surge in leopard-related incidents in Uttarakhand necessitates a proactive response from the forest department, law enforcement, and the public.
  • Ongoing vigilance, awareness campaigns, and strategic planning are crucial to mitigating the human-wildlife conflicts and ensuring the safety of residents.
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