The Uttarakhand forest department in collaboration with the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) will conduct a fresh census of leopards and wild boars in the state, said officials on Friday.
The four-day survey to start from December 10 will be conducted in forests as well as urban neighbourhoods where incidents of leopards straying into human habitations have been reported, said Dhananjai Mohan, chief conservator of forest (wildlife and intelligence).
The study, being conducted in the state after eight years, will be in two-phases and involve volunteers and representatives of non-government organizations, Mohan told Hindustan Times.
“We have already trained senior forest officers at Srinagar (Pauri), Pithoragarh and Dehradun and they in turn will train field staff and other members,” he said. “Others animals that will to be included in the survey include black bear and simian population-monkey and langur.”
The estimated population of leopards in the state in 2008 was 2,335, including 1,742 outside the protected forests and 593 inside.
The WII in a recent report entitled “Human Wildlife Interactions” had said that “chronic conflict still occurs in Uttarakhand whereas in other states the severity of conflict has decreased.”
The report said that conflicts have gone up in the hill state unlike other states like Maharashtra and Himachal Pradesh in the past years.
In Uttarakhand, more than 200 cases of leopard attacks on humans are reported every year. In the past 14 years, 239 people have been killed, and 401 have been injured by leopards across the state, especially in Almora, Chamoli, Pithoragarh, and Pauri districts. Drastic steps like killing leopards are taken once a leopard attacks and kills a human. Many leopard deaths in Uttarakhand are consequences of human-wildlife conflicts, officials said.
According to state forest department figures, 141 leopards were declared as man-eaters since 2001. Of these, 32 were killed by the hunters hired by the department while 33 were captured and released into the wild.
There is no record, however, about the remaining 76 leopards. The department is not sure if the felines were released into the wild or killed.
Along with surveying leopards, the department for the first time, will make an estimate of the wild boar population in the state that will be generated by an index format and not numbers, said S Sathyakumar, a WII biologist.
The study will help to identify key areas where mitigation options are needed to minimise man-animal conflict, he said.
“We wouldn’t be able to come up with figures of wild boars but it would be simpler to generate an index that will help us in determining the concentration of wild boar population. Those areas would be listed and steps would be taken accordingly to resolve conflict.”
The forest department figures show that every year wild boars damage more than 2,000 sq km of farm land.