Special drive launched to capture leopards in Yedgaon dam watershed area - Hindustan Times
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Special drive launched to capture leopards in Yedgaon dam watershed area

May 10, 2024 07:40 AM IST

In the last two months, there have been at least five to six leopard attacks on humans in Junnar tehsil. As recently as May 8, an eight-year-old boy was attacked and killed by a leopard in Kalwadi village

In view of the mounting leopard attacks, especially in the villages around the Yedgaon dam watershed area, the Junnar forest department has launched a special drive to capture leopards in the area this month. Permission for the drive has been obtained from the committee appointed by the National Tiger Conservation Authority, and the department has identified 30 hotspots frequented by leopards, said a senior forest officer from the Junnar forest department.

The department has identified 30 hotspots frequented by leopards, said a senior forest officer from the Junnar forest department. (REPRESENTATIVE PHOTO)
The department has identified 30 hotspots frequented by leopards, said a senior forest officer from the Junnar forest department. (REPRESENTATIVE PHOTO)

In the last two months, there have been at least five to six leopard attacks on humans in Junnar tehsil. As recently as May 8, an eight-year-old boy was attacked and killed by a leopard in Kalwadi village following which, the incensed villagers confronted the first response team sent by the forest department and even beat up a forest guard over the tragic incident. According to forest officials, the human-animal conflict in Junnar has taken a turn for the worse and villagers are demanding strict action to mitigate the situation. What is proving to be a big obstacle however is the fact that the leopard is a protected animal under the Wildlife Protection Act 1975. The forest department has already prepared a sterilisation plan for controlling the leopard population but the same requires policy decision and necessary permissions for implementation.

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Knowing that the policy decision will take time, the Junnar forest department has come up with a short-term solution to the problem which involves a special operation for capturing leopards from the Yedgaon dam watershed area. For this, the department has identified 28 hotspots in the Yedgaon dam watershed area that are frequented by leopards, and has set up at least 30 trap cages at these spots.

Amit Bhise, assistant conservator of forests, Junnar forest division, said, “This special programme aims at the short-term mitigation of the human-leopard conflict in the said area. We have obtained all necessary permissions from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). After the leopard is captured, a medical test will be conducted to check its health. We will also be observing its behaviour patterns to know whether or not it is dangerous. If all results are found positive, the leopard will be re-released into the wild (maybe another area). If there is any problem identified, we will apply for permission to keep the leopard in lifetime captivity.’’

Although short-term mitigation is necessary to prevent the human-leopard conflict in Junnar, the question arises as to where the captive animal will be kept. Currently, leopard facilities in Pune include the Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre (MLRC) in Junnar and Rescue Charitable Trust’s facility in Bavdhan but both are overpopulated. The new Transit Treatment Centre, built by the Pune forest division in Bavdhan, does not have any facility for leopards presently.

Shortage of trap cages a challenge for Junnar forest division

As the population of young leopards also known as ‘sugarcane leopards’ is increasing, the Junnar forest department is facing a shortage of trap cages. Amit Bhise, ACF, Junnar forest department, said, “Shirur, Ambegaon, Junnar and Manchar are the areas that come under the Junnar forest division. In Junnar alone, 80 villages have been identified as hotspots for the human-leopard conflict and there is demand from over 75% of the villages in the aforementioned (four) areas for installation of trap cages. The forest department currently has about 113 such cages but these are insufficient to cater to the kind of demand that exists. Although we haven’t specified the number of cages required, it is certainly a huge number and the department requires more such cages to mitigate the human-animal conflict in the region. We have informed the chief conservator of forests’ office in Pune

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