Lockdown prompts wild animals to emerge from hiding in Bengal; two leopards killed
Man-animal conflict has reduced during the lockdown, said an expert.Updated: Apr 28, 2020 19:48 IST
The 35-day lockdown is not just helping in the containment of Covid-19 cases in Bengal but has also come as a blessing for the flora and fauna in the hills of north Bengal districts.
Wildlife experts and forest officials said while man-animal conflict has reduced to zero, there’s also no report of poaching from the several sanctuaries and wildlife parks in the region. The blessing in disguise has also taken its toll with two leopards being run over in the last one week.
The sighting of a fishing cat---an endangered species and Bengal’s state animal-- after a long time has enthused wildlife experts. It was rescued on April 25 near Dasdargah in Jalpaiguri district and released in the wild.
Ganga Prasad Chettri, chief conservator of forest (north Bengal circle) said, “The fishing cat was sighted in this region after many years.”
Sanjay Dutta, the ranger of Belacoba forest, said, “I never spotted a fishing cat in North Bengal.” The sighting of the animal, which was around three feet tall, initially panicked local people.
Experts said leopards have started crossing from both sides of the India-Bangladesh border.
“Some days ago leopards were sighted by local people at Chalhati village along the India-Bangladesh border in the Rajganj police station of Jalpaiguri district. These big cats also created panic. A cage has been set up to capture these,” said Dutta.
Forest officials said that negligible human movement along the international border has prompted the leopards to move freely. Two leopards sneaked out of the forests and were killed after being hit by vehicles in the Alipurduar area over the last one week.
Talking of the impact of the lockdown on wild animals and human behaviour, Dutta said, “A few days ago a deer was rescued from Bhandiguri Tea Estate in Jalpaiguri district. The deer was caught by local people who informed the forest department. Had it been normal time the villagers might have killed and eaten the deer.”
Chettri, who is one of the senior-most forest officers posted in Jalpaiguri, said there has been no report of elephants encroaching into human habitations. No human interference in elephant corridors can be the reason behind this, he added.
The lockdown also has some negative effect, experts said. Chettri said since many migrant labourers have returned home, incidents of people entering the forest to collect firewood or chop down trees have increased.
V K Sood, the additional principal chief conservator of forest, said, “Illegal lumbering has increased. Some people are taking undue advantage of the lockdown and felling trees. It is very difficult to carry out raids at this time,” said Sood.