The increasing population of stray dogs in state’s capital, Shimla, is not only becoming a menace for common people, the canines also are attracting leopards inhabiting the peripheral areas of the hill town.
Studies conducted by the wildlife wing of the forest department in collaboration with Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)-- India Programme – has revealed that the littering garbage, particularly at the dumping and collections sites, attract stray dogs, which further attract leopards inhabiting the forest around Shimla. “Garbage is a serious issue and attracts feral dogs, which in turn attract leopards. Garbage dumps need to be cleaned and treated,” said a senior functionary of the forest department.
The municipal corporation (MC) authorities admit to the fact that littering of garbage is one the main factors that often lead the feline to prowl in human habitations of the town. “Garbage dumping is still a problem. Many still dump the household garbage in the open or the nullahs near their locality,” municipal corporation deputy mayor Tikender Panwar told Hindustan Times.
There are 35, 000 households in the town falls within the purview of Shimla MC. The households in Shimla generate nearly 85 tonnes of waste everyday. “It’s true that the feral dogs feed on the garbage dumped in open. Garbage collection has increased from 35 tonnes to 85 tonnes in the last three years. Still 15 5 % of the households are not covered under door to door waste collection,” said Panwar.
The stray dog population in Shimla too has increased to 7,500 in the past five years.
“People do not want to believe that the leopards prowl in Shimla, even though Shimla and its surrounds are rich in forests and vegetation. Leopards are extremely adaptable and are even found living on the edges of a metropole. The past shows that leopards have always inhabited the Shimla hills and continue to do today as well” said a wildlife conservationist.
The wildlife wing of the forest department is conducting state-wide survey of leopard conflict areas. To understand animal behavior better, especially with respect to leopards and other wild carnivores in and around Shimla, camera traps were set up for 15 days during January. “Ten Cuddeback camera traps were set up at 10 locations in and around Shimla. A kaleidoscopic array of photos -- 18 images of leopards, 2 images of leopard cats and one of jackal – emerged in and around Shimla. All the leopard images were taken between 10 pm and 7 am,” said an official of the forest department.
The wild life wing is now intending to reach out an educational mode -- an awareness campaign -- in schools and colleges to improve sensitisation about the leopard problem in Shimla.
Forest’s advisory for general public
· Leopards are generally scared of humans and do avoid people. In the night, if walking alone, playing music on the mobile phone will keep the leopards away. Children must not be left alone during the dark.
· Dogs need to be kept inside their kennel. Once the leopard realises the dog is well protected, its visit to the specific area decreases.
· On sighting a leopard, contact needs to be established with the HP forest department/wild life wing. Chasing the animal or throwing anything at it will provoke it to attack in retaliation.
· It is really important that people do not put up snares or attempt shooting these animals -- an injured leopard is dangerous. Such activities need to be discouraged.