Monday, February 16, 2009

India: Development takes a toll on leopards

16 Feb 2009, 0605 hrs IST, Dipak Kumar Dash, TNN

NEW DELHI/GURGAON: As the cities grow and humans move inside forests in Aravali area, more and more leopards are being forced to come out in open. The consequence, not surprisingly, prove fatal for the big cats in most cases.

In last one year, three leopards have been killed in Gurgaon and its neighbouring area Nuh. One leopard was killed in a road accident on NH-8 last year and last month two cubs were allegedly killed by a farmhouse owner in Nuh. In May last year, one young cub was caught from Golden Heights farmhouse in Sohna.

Locals in Baghdoli Ghati, a valley famous for spotting of big cats in the past, said they have seen a number of leopards in last few years. "Almost every second day, I spot a leopard. They have eaten my 17 goats and a few dogs,'' said Jeet Ram, a local farmer. Swami Chetanand of a local Ashram recalled, "In late 70s, people would tell us how hunters stayed here for days to kill tigers and leopards. After many years, at least leopards are back.''

Though officials see migration of leopards from Rajasthan to this part of Aravali as a sign of "growing green cover in the region'', they also say that farmhouses, residential projects and unregulated mining is taking toll on the animals. Particularly harmful, revealed a ground survey in the region, is the encroachment on natural springs and water bodies by farmhouse owners and religious institutions.

One example of this is campus of Prakashpuri Bawa in Raisina hills. Sources said another spring has been encroached upon by a farm house in Nuh. "There are many such cases as, to meet the daily water needs in this dry region, people have encroached on water bodies,'' revealed Gurgaon forest conservator R P Balwan. "People living in farmhouses inside the jungle are trying to force leopards them out. Either they are killed or are chased to come down to the plains.''

S K Dhar, principal chief conservator of forests and wildlife of Haryana government, added there are reports of a farmhouse owner in Nuh killing two cubs and hiding their bodies. "We got inputs that the two cubs were coming to a water hole located inside the farmhouse. Two naked live electricity wires were put inside the water hole to electrocute the animals. We are trying to locate the bodies,'' Dhar added.

Forest officials claimed that even when preserving wildlife has become a national issue, no action is being taken to curb activities that pose threat to wildlife in this region. "Too little action on the issue despite court orders is making the situation worse,'' said a forest official.

Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) member Ashok Kumar allege that Haryana, that has one national park and a few sanctuaries, "is yet to put its house in order as far as preserving wildlife is concerned''.


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