Nuh villagers demand leopard-proofing their settlements
Officials of the wildlife department said they have spotted 16 spots with pug marks last week; in all likelihood, a leopard couple and their three cubs are still prowling the vicinity.gurgaon Updated: Jan 05, 2019 09:11 IST
Residents of seven villages in Nuh district have requested the state wildlife department to erect fences around their settlements to protect them from leopards. Constant night patrolling by forest guards and adequate provision for lights around the village peripheries are also on their list of demands.
Around 30 villagers met state minister for forest and wildlife Rao Narbir Singh on Thursday and discussed their requests with him to help reduce the chances of man-animal conflicts.
The request comes on the heels of a leopard sighting on December 28, when a mother and her cubs were spotted drinking water in the agricultural fields near Ferozepur Jhirka village in Nuh, 82km from Gurugram. Harun, the sarpach of Maholi, a village near Firozepur Jhirka, said he was out watering his wheat and mustard crops when he spotted the big cat and her offspring just 20 metres away. “I was so frightened that I could not even breathe or move for few seconds,” he said. A wildlife department team visited the area the next morning and found fresh pug marks.
Officials of the wildlife department said they have spotted 16 spots with pug marks last week; in all likelihood, a leopard couple and their three cubs are still prowling the vicinity.
The villagers also alleged that 35 goats and 14 calves have gone missing in the last three months. However, wildlife officials have refuted the claims of attacks on animals and said they have not received a single written complaint from any of the villagers. Sunil Kumar Tanwar, wildlife inspector, and his team visited the villages from December 30 to January 3, but found only pugmarks, no carcasses.
“We are not safe. We cannot avoid going into the fields at night. Our children work and play outside too; what if the big cat attacks them?” Akhtar Alvi, a resident of village Ferozepur Jhirka, said.
Last month, five leopard sightings were reported from the district in Maholi, Dhadoli Kalan, Hasanpur Bilonda, Bhond and Sidhrawat villages. Before that, in August 2018, four leopard sightings were reported from Pathkori, Bhond, Ferozepur Jhirka and Mandawar in Sohna district.
In Gurugram, the primary habitat of these apex predators has become fragmented due to the presence of the Gurugram-Faridabad Road, putting them in danger of human contact, and in closer proximity to cattle, which is easier to kill than wild animals. Thus, conflicts are bound to arise, as was the case in 2016 when villagers in Sohna’s Mandawar village brutally beat a leopard to death after it strayed into their area.
Despite pressure from Nuh’s villagers, however, the forest department is unlikely to give in to their demands. “Habitats improvement is a better solution. Leopards can climb quite easily, making leopard-proof fencing a hugely expensive affair,” Vinod Kumar, additional principal chief conservator of forests, said.
However, Singh said he would ask the forest and wildlife officials to measure the boundaries of these villages and submit a report within 15 days. “We will also discuss the plan with wildlife experts and ensure the safety of villagers. We will, meanwhile, start the process of installing lights to ensure there is sufficient illumination to spot a leopard at night,” Singh said.
He also said he would visit the villages next week along with officials of the wildlife department.
First Published: Jan 05, 2019 09:11 IST