Soon, the city's only wildlife forest park spread over 103 square kilometres from Malad to Thane, will open its doors to citizens to involve them in a campaign to save the leopard - the only wildcat in Mumbai.
'Mumbaikars for Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP)', a programme charted out by the forest department, will help you talk to them, interact on social networking sites, and become a partner in the SGNP project.
Almost four months after the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) issued guidelines to states on handling incidents of man-animal conflict, the Maharashtra state government has charted out the first of its kind, eight-point programme to assist leopard conservation and mitigate man-animal conflict.
In the past eight months in 2011, there have been seven incidents of leopards being spotted, caught or found killing dogs in areas around the 103-square kilometre Sanjay Gandhi National Park.
Also, the number of leopards, which was 24 in 2008, has dwindled to 21 in 2010.
The project, brainchild of Sunil Limaye, director SGNP, will involve wildlife experts, environmentalists, students and even citizens to take a close look at the problems with leopards and how such incidents can be mitigated.
Finalised by the department, the project report includes mapping past conflict situations, identifying threats to the cats through interviews, launching social networking pages for awareness and networking with citizens, estimating dog populations in and around the forest and using camera traps to obtain images.
"We have had several episodes of leopards attacking people and vice-versa which needs to be looked at immediately," said forests minister Patangrao Kadam.
Vidya Athreya, a wildlife biologist who will be heading the project, said the attempt involves all stakeholders including the police and politicians. "We are trying to use simple science and modern techniques like google earth to study the conflict situations. Also, social networking will get people involved making the project sustainable," she said.
"In case of most conflicts, people might not have wanted to injure the leopard but ended up doing so because they did not know what to do," Athreya added.