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Why Junnar safari will give 35 leopards better life

Today, the Manikdoh leopard rescue centre is taking care of 35 leopards, some of them caged for more than seven years. Though they were housed in bigger enclosures after the centre was expanded two years ago, they will now get a chance to roam freely in 500 square hectares. 

pune Updated: Mar 04, 2018 23:31 IST
Ashish Phadnis
Ashish Phadnis
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,junnar,safari
Manikdoh is one of India’s largest leopard care centres and is handled by an NGO - Wildlife SOS, along with the government of Maharashtra since 2007. (WILDLIFE SOS/HT PHOTO)

Even though the proposed leopard safari project in Ambegavan, Junnar taluka is to attract wildlife enthusiasts, it will be more beneficial for the caged leopards,” says Vivek Khandekar, chief conservator of forests, Pune circle.

Today, the Manikdoh leopard rescue centre in Junnar is taking care of 35 leopards, some of them caged for more than seven years. Though they were housed in bigger enclosures after the centre was expanded two years ago, they will now get a chance to roam freely in 500 square hectares.

“The proposal has been sent to state minister of forests, Sudhir Mungantiwar, and is likely to get approved soon. It is yet to be decided if the project will be handled entirely by the state or will be a joint collaboration with an NGO, like the leopard centre,” says Khandekar.

Manikdoh is one of India’s largest leopard care centres and is handled by an NGO - Wildlife SOS, along with the government of Maharashtra since 2007.

“We try our best to reunite cubs with their mothers, or release grown-ups back into the wild. However, most of the leopards currently in captivity at the centre are either old, disabled or man-eaters. Some of them are raised here as cubs and they can’t survive in the wild. So these animals will be kept here for their entire lifespan. Therefore, the leopard safari could be a blessing for them,” says senior veterinary doctor Ajay Deshmukh.

If the project works out, it will be second leopard safari in India.

The work for the country's first dedicated leopard safari in Bannerghatta biological park near Bengaluru has begun and Rs 20 crore will be spent on the project spread over 20 acres. It is likely to open by the end of this year.

“It wouldn’t be possible to keep all 35 leopards in the safari. So, possibly we will keep them in rotation. We also hoping that this will also create awareness among people and will help us in our mission to reduce the man – animal conflict,” Khandekar says.

Castration a solution?

Vivek Khandekar, chief conservator of forests, Pune circle, stresses that the option of castration of the big cats could be one of the measures in reducing the man-animal conflict in the Junnar area.

“Due to a favourable hiding place in sugarcane fields, ample amount of water, privacy and food, the number of leopards is increasing. Normally the death rate of leopard cubs is high in forest areas, but here it has been observed that it has gone drastically down to due to favourable conditions. So castration can control their population,” he says.

“Moreover, leopards in Manikdoh leopard rescue centre are kept apart as breeding in captivity is avoided. Therefore, they became quite agitated and disturbed during the mating season. If we could seek permission from the government, after castration they can be put together again,” Khandekar added.

First Published: Mar 04, 2018 22:42 IST