Vacant posts of asstt professors to be filled 

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 29 Dec 2018 11:39:43

The leopard that had fallen into a well in Umarkhed taluka climbed on the cot lowered into the well after much effort on Friday. 

By Kartik Lokhande,

Leopard caught between protected areas and human habitats, says Kishor Rithe, Member, State Board for Wildlife

Leopard is proving to be the first carnivore to bear the heaviest brunt of urbanisation. In one single year -- 2018 (so far) -- Maharashtra has lost 80 leopards but no one is talking about it. During the same period, Maharashtra lost 18 tigers. This comparison best speaks of the neglect that the leopard deaths have suffered.

According to Forest Department officials, as many as 80 leopards have died in the State from January 1 till this date. As per the data compiled by Forest Department, the period between January 1 and October 16, saw deaths of 66 leopards. If one goes through the data, leopard deaths have been reported in 13 Forest circles including Mumbai and Nagpur Wildlife circles. Most of the 66 deaths -- 16 -- have been reported in Nashik circle, followed by eight each in Mumbai (Wildlife) and Chandrapur circles.

If one goes into reasons mentioned in the official report of Forest Department, maximum 43 of 66 deaths mentioned above have died of ‘natural’ causes.  However, no reason has been assigned in 38 of these ‘natural’ deaths. In other ‘natural’ deaths, the reasons assigned include infighting, disease, and snake-bite. Of the remaining 23 deaths (out of total 66), 18 are a result of accident involving two categories -- hit by vehicles, and drowning in wells. Five of the leopard deaths have been attributed to poaching. 

Kishor Rithe, Member, State Board for Wildlife and Founder President of Satpuda Foundation, told ‘The Hitavada’ that leopard had always lived around human habitations. “Hence, leopard is the first carnivore to bear the heaviest brunt of urbanisation and expansion of human habitations. Leopards have been noticed in industrial areas on the outskirts of several cities, in sugarcane fields especially in parts of Marathwada and Western Maharashtra,” he said. According to him, as much as 75 per cent of the leopard population in State lived outside protected area (PA) or tiger reserve. As leopard was caught between PA/tiger reserve and human habitation, it was exposed to risk of conflict on both sides.

Commenting on the deaths of leopards this year in Maharashtra, Rithe said that with expansion of road network through what were previously forest and wildlife corridors or fragmented forests was one reason. “For, leopard is exposed to risk of getting hit by a vehicle moving in speed on these roads. It has happened several times,” he added. Besides, many leopards died as they fell into rim-less wells. In many cases, he quoted from his experience, farmers abandoned construction of well-rim in their fields as they did not get remaining portion of financial aid from the Government for construction of well. Besides, there were several old, abandoned wells in areas near fragmented forests. “Need is to find a solution to this,” he stressed.

The significance of Leopard in ecosystem is immense. Rithe said that Leopard kept population of Wild Boar in check. He explained, “If population of Wild Boar goes out of hand with decline in Leopard population, it will affect agriculture to a great extent. You ask any farmer and he will tell you about damage caused to standing crop by Wild Boar. Ultimately, if agricultural production gets affected, it is bound to have undesirable consequences for human beings.” Besides, affecting the habitat of carnivore like Leopard may lead to human deaths because of obvious man-animal conflict, he warned. To avoid unpleasant future scenario, he suggested the Government to acknowledge Leopard with due importance in planning development and expansion of cities.

Leopard, whose scientific name is ‘Panthera pardus’, is in the schedule of animals protected under Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Leopard population is considered ‘vulnerable’ under the Red List of International Union for Conservation of Nature. The IUCN website shows Leopard population across the world as ‘decreasing’. It also lists several reasons including ‘residential and commercial development, agriculture and aquaculture, energy production and mining, transportation and service corridors, hunting, logging, wood harvesting, human intrusions and disturbance, fire and fire suppression, dams and water management/use, and other ecosystem modifications’. As per the Wildlife Institute of India estimation, India has leopard population between 12,000 and 14,000.