With an estimated 57 dogs found per sq km in the Aarey Milk Colony, leopards from the adjoining Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) stray outside the park’s boundary for these easy preys, resulting in man-animal conflict, said a survey conducted as part of Mumbaikars for SGNP (MFSGNP) campaign.
“The abundant canine population coupled with the garbage strewn around human settlements near SGNP’s boundary increases the potential of the leopard’s prey base. Dogs, cats, pigs and cattle are all attracted to garbage and the leopards follow them to these spots,” said Vidya Athreya, project director, MFSGNP.
On Saturday, Athreya, a wildlife expert working with Centre for Wildlife Studies (CWS), Bangalore, spoke on the man-animal conflict during the Earth Mela organised by non-government organization (NGO) Sprouts Environment Trust.
This year, leopards have killed six people residing around the national park’s periphery in tribal hamlets of Maroshi Pada, Charandev Pada, Khindipada and Shankar Tekdi. On December 7, Anthony VK Fernandes, a private security guard, was killed by a leopard inside the Bhandup water complex in Bhandup (W).
The MFSGNP campaign was launched in September last year where 25 wildlife scientists, experts and forest authorities started working on ways to reduce the man-animal conflict. The project team installed ca mera traps in SGNP and Aarey colony for 153 days to study the movement of the leopards.
Commenting on the increasing man-animal conflict in the city, Athreya said, “There are an estimated 21 leopards in 140 sq km area of SGNP and Aarey Colony. Though leopards also prey on herbivores in the park, the high occurrence of dogs, cats, pigs and cattle outside the park acts a trigger for them to stray, bringing them closer to humans.”
Having studied man-animal conflict in Akole tehsil, Ahmednagar district, Athreya found out that leopards adapt to urban environment better than most wild animals and usually prey on one dog a week.
“The urban populace must realise that cleaning up garbage around their housing complexes is one of the easiest ways to avoid man-animal conflict. Across the world, animals such as bears, mountain lions that stray into urban areas are all attracted to domesticated animals who linger around garbage,” added Athreya.