MP forest officials play down leopard scare at Jabalpur colony, offer reasons
The leopards have killed domestic animals raised by families in the neighbouring localities in Jabalpur.Updated: Sep 17, 2020 14:35 IST
The Madhya Pradesh forest department has rejected a suggestion to relocate four leopards spotted in a forest nearby Jabalpur saying the animals have caused no harm to people, who should learn to live with them.
The department’s reply was filed on Tuesday at the Jabalpur bench of Madhya Pradesh high court, in response to a petition filed by local residents seeking the relocation of the four leopards spotted recently near their locality.
The court has fixed the next date of hearing on October 1.
The PIL, filed on August 20, claimed there was an ongoing man-animal conflict at Nayagaon co-operative housing society, adjacent to Madan Mahal hills covering 603 hectares of forest area.
The people living in the area are facing a threat to their life as a male leopard, a female leopard and two fully grown cubs were seen several times in the month of July, 2020 by locals, the petition claims.
“The leopard has killed many domestic animals like dogs, cats, cows and buffalos,” said Aditya Sanghvi, advocate of the petitioner.
In a 20-point reply to the court’s notice served on August 20, the forest department said, “Leopard is a schedule-1 wild animal finding place as entry 16-b in the said schedule appended to the Wild Life (protection) Act 1972…The chief wildlife warden can issue a permit or order to capture (a leopard) only if he is satisfied that the animal has become dangerous, which is not the case at present.”
A forest official referred to the guidelines issued by Union ministry of forest and environment in April 2011 and said that “mere sighting of a leopard in the vicinity of human habitation does not necessarily mean that the animal has strayed from a forest and needs to be captured. It is clearly provided that the best method of dealing with a wild cat, in the absence of attacks on humans, is not to intervene.”
The department said that forest officials were continuously monitoring the behavior of the leopards with the help of camera traps in the area.
“The leopard in the area has picked up a few stray dogs, which is considered to be normal behaviour as peripheral leopard is known to survive on stray dogs and pigs,” reads the reply.
The department calls the plea completely misconceived and based on very poor understanding of the subject and seeks its dismissal.
“Had the petitioner had taken care to undertake even a semblance of research on the subject; he would have then spread awareness in the local area so that both humans and wild animals live in harmonious coexistence,” the department said further.
It claimed that despite several leopards living in the periphery of Jabalpur town, there has never been a single reported case of leopard attack on a human being, in what could be considered a great example of co-existence. “What is needed is spreading awareness about leopard behaviour among local people inhabiting the area,” reads the reply.
Principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife) Alok Kumar said, “There is no conflict between man and leopard in the area. We have said everything in the reply with all the facts.”
Petitioner’s advocate Aditya Sanghvi said, “Are the forest department officers waiting for attacks of leopards on human beings. Most of the residents of Nayagaon colony are senior citizens and retired officers and judges and they are living in constant fear for the past two months but the forest department’s reply doesn’t reflect the same.”
Sanghvi added that the residents, too, were against any “inhuman treatment” of leopards but needed security.
“They (forest department) should at least do something. The local residents themselves erected fencing in the area to protect their domestic animals,” said the advocate.