Work on the state’s first leopard safari, at Sanjay Gandhi National Park, is expected to start early next year. This week, authorities of the national park sent the final master layout plan of the safari to the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) and are hoping to get the final approval in December.
The idea of a leopard safari was mooted to create an open space for the 22 captive leopards housed in a leopard orphanage inside SGNP. This orphanage houses man-eating leopards, injured and old leopards, and those that were trapped after straying into human habitats.
Presently, these leopards are kept in separate enclosures of 110sq ft. The leopard safari will be located in a 20-hectare area inside SGNP, adjacent to the existing Lion and Tiger safari. The total area occupied by the three safaris will be 100 hectares. These barb-wired enclosures will be around 50-feet high.
“The leopards will be released in the safari area in the morning. We will release 3 to 4 leopards at a time and create a separate feeding area for them. They will be brought back to the enclosures at night,” said Sunil Limaye, director, SGNP.
Limaye added, “Once we get the final approval from CZA, we will carry out the detailed budgeting. Following that, construction of the enclosures will begin.”
The safari will also have dense tree cover so that leopards can climb up to rest. The captive leopards will shift to their new and bigger orphanage by March. Each orphanage enclosure will be around 165 sq.ft in size while there will also be a separate exercise area created for the leopards. The leopards will be released in the safari from their orphanage enclosures.
Experts said that a leopard safari will give more breathing space for the leopards. “The present enclosures are not really great and leopards should not be kept in captivity forever. But, the leopards should not be released in large numbers as they do not usually move in groups,” said Vidya Athreya, wildlife biologist with Center for Wildlife Studies, Bangalore.