Leopards preying on humans in U’khand: WII study
An ongoing study that began in 2016 to redress the human-leopard conflict in Uttarakhand’s Pauri district and West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling highlights how leopards in the hill state are preying on humans. The encounters are deliberate and the conflict is high claiming at least 15 human lives every year, it said.dehradun Updated: Sep 09, 2017 20:59 IST
DEHRADUN: Leopards in Uttarakhand are more than nocturnal predators. They go for the kill even when it chances upon humans, according to a research.
An ongoing study that began in 2016 to redress the human-leopard conflict in Uttarakhand’s Pauri district and West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling highlights how leopards in the hill state are preying on humans. The encounters are deliberate and the conflict is high claiming at least 15 human lives every year, it said.
“In Pauri, leopards are preying on humans. The encounters are aimed at killing. In West Bengal, the encounters are provoked, which means humans are not harmed unless they trespass the habitat of leopards,” Dipanjan Naha, project associate at Wildlife Institute of India (WII), told Hindustan Times.
To conclude in 2019, the research will give recommendations to both states for mitigating the man-leopard conflicts. Currently, sensitive areas in Pauri, Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling are being mapped for better ground strategies to avert conflicts.
In Uttarakhand, over 600 people have been killed and another 3,100 injured so far in leopard attacks since the state’s formation in the year 2000. Another study by the WII released in 2015 found the situation ‘severe’ as compared to other states like Maharashtra.
The 2008 Census puts leopard population at 2,335 in Uttarakhand. Over 150 leopards were declared man-eaters, of which nearly 40 trapped and about the same number shot dead. “Declaring man-eaters is not a long-term solution in Uttarakhand. If one man-eater is eliminated, another takes its place. In West Bengal, as the leopards aren’t man-eaters, they release the spotted cat at another spot,” Naha said.
While researchers are trying to ascertain why leopards prey on humans, wildlife activists claim degradation of leopard habitat, encroachment and lack of prey base in forest are prominent reasons for the deadly attacks. “There’s no food in the wild because of which leopards are turning to human habitations. What I have observed is leopards take cue from each other. If leopards find a man-eater, they do the same as it’s easier to kill a human than a herbivore,” Joy Hukil, a hunter who has killed more than 20 maneaters, said.
In December 2016, the Nainital High Court put a ban on the practice of declaring ‘maneaters’. But, the government got relief from the apex court. For the last nine months, the wildlife department has declared no leopard as maneater. “We also don’t wish to declare maneaters unless a leopard kills two people,” chief wildlife warden Digvijay Singh Khati asserted.