The leopard attack in Meerut, 60 km northeast of Delhi, and a man-eating tigress killing at least 10 persons in adjoining districts in the last two months raise questions if the capital is prepared to deal with such an eventuality.
The Delhi wildlife department does not have the staff to deal with such cases. Those serving are neither trained nor armed to capture rogue big cats. The department completely relies on an NGO, Wildlife SOS.
Geeta Seshamani of Wildlife SOS said, “We’re not prepared to deal with Meerut-like cases. The field staff has to be trained in darting, use of tranquilliser guns. You need vehicles and trapping cages. But all this can’t be done overnight.” A few years ago, a policeman panicked and killed a leopard in south Delhi when it leapt towards him. “When the department turns to us, we turn to our veterinary doctors who might be busy with other works. You never know,” she said.
The Delhi government has informed the National Green Tribunal about the vacant posts — 36 forest guards, six forest rangers, seven wildlife guards, four deputy forest rangers and three wildlife inspectors. “We have three wildlife inspectors against the requirement of seven. We have only one wildlife guard, while we need 11. We have 30-odd forest guards but we actually need as many more,” said a wildlife inspector. But Delhi’s chief wildlife warden AK Shukla doesn’t see a crisis. “The erstwhile wildlife corridor doesn’t exist anymore. There can only be exceptional cases of big cats sneaking into Delhi. We take help from the National Zoological Park. They’re well equipped,” Shukla said.
The park’s curator, Riaz Khan said, “The park, controlled by the central government, is not supposed to help in capture. It’s the Delhi government’s job. But we often go to the sites on our own initiative.”