Human-leopard conflict in Uttarakhand has never been so severe. Both villages and cities are equally affected by it.
As per the forest department’s statistics, more than 300 people have been killed and over 200 injured in leopard attacks from 2000 to 2015.
From 73 leopard attacks in 2007-08, Himachal Pradesh has seen the attacks decline to 23 in 2013-14. But Uttarakhand reports 50 leopard attacks yearly and the conflict continues to be chronic, according to a Wildlife Institute of India (WII) 2015 report.
Dehradun, Haridwar, Pauri, Almora, Tehri, Bageshwar, Rudraprayag, Lansdowne are few districts where leopard-human conflict is alarming.
“Encroachment on leopard habitation is one of the key reasons behind these rising human-leopard conflicts. People are living along dense forest... The buffer areas are completely intruded. Conflicts are bound to happen,” WII scientist Bivash Pandav said.
Forest officials cite lack of prey base behind these increasing leopard attacks. “Prey base is declining and leopard population is increasing. These wild cats are straying around human habitation feeding on humans,” chief wildlife warden Digvijay Singh Khati said.
Khati said the introduction of prey base, identification of high-conflict areas, arrangement of street lights nearby villages are few long-term plans that are presently being worked upon.
World Wide Fund (WWF) programme director Sejal Vohra feels a study is required before blaming the rise in leopard population for these increasing attacks. “Besides, it’s a dangerous message that the prey-base is declining because of which leopards are coming towards human habitation unless there’s scientific study to prove it.”