Two years on, leopard census drill leads to nowhere
The first phase of the census in mid-2015 was done in association with the Wildlife Institute of India, followed by the second. Both phases studied habitation, pug marks and prey distribution. However, the third and last phase of the census, which needed direct and indirect reporting of leopards, could not be done.dehradun Updated: Jun 26, 2017 20:39 IST
DEHRADUN: What began as a major exercise to ascertain the leopard population in 2015 is yet to be completed in Uttarakhand, where the man-animal conflict has reached an alarming level.
The forest department will now have to restart the census all over again. “It’s challenging to complete this census which has practically come to a halt. If we ever have to monitor the population of leopards next, we will have to start all over again,” additional principal chief conservator of forest (APCCF) , wildlife and intelligence, Dhananjai Mohan told Hindustan Times.
The first phase of the census in mid-2015 was done in association with the Wildlife Institute of India, followed by the second. Both phases studied habitation, pug marks and prey distribution. However, the third and last phase of the census, which needed direct and indirect reporting of leopards, could not be done.
In its May 3 edition, Hindustan Times highlighted that a lack of camera traps with the forest divisions led to the suspension of the final phase of the survey. But the forest officers are highly doubtful of completing this process.
Based on unscientific method, the last census in 2008 estimated the leopard population at 2,335 in Uttarakhand. Camera traps were not used in that exercise. Though Corbett and Rajaji tiger reserves have their camera traps, they are not sufficient for the survey.
Due to the high man-leopard conflicts, there was a need to scientifically ascertain the population of leopards. As per the forest department, 604 people were killed from November 2000 to February 2016. Another 3,092 were left injured in leopard attacks.
One of the key reasons behind the conflict is believed to be the increasing population of leopards. So far, there are no scientific estimates to back this theory. “The first two phases have given a lot of scientific data which can be used further for population analysis,” Mohan said.
The high court’s order putting a ban on declaring leopards as ‘man-eaters’ and curbing the power of chief wildlife warden to give shoot at sight orders has put the forest officials in a fix. The forest department cannot even rescue such leopards as there are no facilities to house them. The officers have now constituted rapid and quick response teams in Tehri, Almora and Pauri to alleviate man-leopard conflicts.