Animals reclaim lost territory, courtesy Covid-19 lockdown
The lockdown to contain coronavirus pandemic has sent humans scurrying indoors but has widened the artificial boundaries for wild animals in Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, spread over 1200 square kilometre in Bahraich and Lakhimpur Kheri districts of Uttar Pradesh. Wildlife enthusiasts and foresters in the area say that since there is no movement of vehicles on the connecting roads, the animals venturing out in human territories can be spotted easily.
Some wildlife experts termed it as a behavioural change, saying curiosity was driving animals out of the jungle. “The lockdown has impacted the forest area as well because there is no human movement on roads passing through it. Only a week ago I saw a flock of about 35 elephants on Gauri Panta road that passes through the core forest area and ends at Nepal border,” said Sanjay Narain, a wild life enthusiast, who owns a farm on the periphery of Dudhwa forest.
Narain said Gauri Panta Road was usually quite busy, with movement of more than 200 heavy and light vehicles every day. “But during lockdown, there is no traffic on the road and the animals venture out as if they are trying to re-claim their lost territories,” said Narain.
On the same day, he said he also saw a tiger on the main road, which was a rare sight.
Sanjay Pathak, director of Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, said the lockdown was a big change for animals. “Now since they do not hear hearing any honking, or engine roars along the road, they can be seen moving freely on the roads through the forest area. This is certainly a big change in the behaviour of wild animals,” said Pathak.
Recollecting an incident, he said, “I was on the way to Pilibhit via Kishanpur road in the evening when I noticed a leopard sitting along the roadside. I asked my driver to stop the vehicle and wait until it disappeared into the forest. But the leopard seemed in no hurry. After waiting for 15 minutes I asked my driver to proceed. Leopard is a shy animal, so this kind of behaviour is quite strange.”
He said that before lockdown, more than 300 vehicles moved on this road on a daily basis.
The scene is no different in other parts of the forest reserve. Anil Patel, DFO North Kheri, said spotting animals had become common during lockdown. “Perhaps the animals are moving out due to curiosity. Initially, the animals ventured out on roads only at night when there was little or no traffic. But now since the roads are deserted even during the day, the animals are moving freely and also in human habitats,” said Patel. The forester said wild boar, spotted deer and elephants were commonly seen on Dhira Kukra Road and Pilibhit-Basti Road in Mailani range.
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