Maharashtra sees 174 leopard deaths in 2020
After a leopard in Solapur was shot dead by a sharp shooter, the number of deaths of big cats in Maharashtra this year has gone up to 174, 60% more than the figure registered in 2019 that saw 110 leopard deaths, according to the state forest department (wildlife) authorities.
On December 18, a leopard that had killed at least eight people and injured others in Beed, Aurangabad and Solapur forest divisions since November 15 was shot dead by the state forest department after 10-day chase involving choppers and sharp shooters.
The highest number of wild cat deaths was recorded in Nashik with 70 leopard deaths, followed by 27 in Pune and 26 in Kolhapur districts respectively.
Out of 174 leopard deaths till December 2020, 85 died natural deaths, 64 accident-related, 18 cases of poaching while seven animals died because of electrocution. The forest department in its report mentioned that leopard deaths due to road and train accidents had doubled from last year. Seventeen leopards died in road and train accidents in 2019 compared with 34 for 2020. Similarly, 25 leopards drowned in 2020 as compared to 10 last year.
The forest department report states that loss of human life due to leopard attacks has gone up three times. Twenty-three people died in attacks in 2019 while 35 died in 2020. A total of 37 leopards were rescued in 2020. Taking the man-animal conflict into consideration, the state wildlife board in November decided to set up a committee to assess the damage to humans in most vulnerable spots involving leopard population especially in rural Maharashtra. A study group is scheduled to be formed under the principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF) (wildlife) to address the issue in a holistic manner aimed at mitigating the evolving situation
Maharashtra has seen 35 deaths due to leopard attacks till December which is the highest in a decade, the forest department stated in its report.
Vidya Athreya, a scientist at Wildlife Conservation Society - India, said, “It is important for the forest department to take proactive measures to check leopard deaths. Earlier the man-animal conflict in Junnar and Mumbai was intense, but later reduced considerably. The conflict reduction model of Mumbai and Junnar needs to be replicated in other sensitive areas of Maharashtra. We need to have over bridges or underpasses at places where leopards cross to make a safe passage so that casualties can be avoided.”
Jayarame Gowda, deputy conservator of forests (Junnar division) said, “Junnar, Shirur and Ambegaon terrain is the leopard belt of the state and its territory is expanding as most of the geographical spread is sugarcane belt area. Sugarcane cultivation has increased thrice over the past and it is a favourable habitat for leopards. It is a congenial atmosphere and there is no disturbance once the animal goes deep inside a cane field. Sheep and goat population is equally good in the area where leopards get enough prey. Deaths are increasing due to accidents either through road accidents, drowning and territorial fights.”
The story of big cats
Leopard population across India is between 12,000 and 14,000 as per the 2016 census,
According to Phase IV tiger estimation exercise in 2020, 669 leopards have been recorded in Maharashtra.
According to the state forest department, 173 leopard deaths were officially reported till November
85 leopards died of natural causes
64 died in roads accident
18 fell prey to poaching
7 died of electrocution
Maharashtra sees 35 deaths due to leopard attacks in 2020