Man-animal conflict in HP: 34 killed, 350 injured by leopards in last decade

Indian Leopard - 11; pix SShukla; Chandigarh; January 2011The rising human population and shrinking habitat of animals has led to a conflict between the two. In the last decade, leopards have strayed into human habitation and killed 34 people in different parts of the hill state. 

The prowling leopards in Himachal have certainly raised concerns for the forest department, which has now ordered to carry out a statewide survey to assess the population of felines that threaten humans and livestock in the state.

“Increasing biotic interference in the habitats of large carnivores, including leopards and easy availability of food/ prey base in the human-used landscapes has brought them towards human habitations, causing leopard-human conflicts,” said additional chief secretary Tarun Kapoor.

The state has witnessed 34 deaths due to leopard attacks since 2004. In addition, 367 cases of injury to people have also been reported over the same period, out of which 99 cases were of grievous nature.

However, the highest death cases were reported between 2007 and 2008 when seven people were reported to be killed. In the past three years, four people in the state died due to leopard attacks.

The number of such attacks is high in Bilaspur, Mandi and Hamirpur districts where their population has risen in the last decade. Leopards have been foraying into human habitats, causing scare among residents.

WILDLIFE?WING?TO?FORM?RAPID-RESPONSE?TEAMS

The wildlife wing of the forest department will now set up rapid-response teams in three different locations including Shimla, Hamirpur and Dharamshala. The teams will be equipped with tranquilising dart guns to catch the wandering leopards.

“In case a leopard is spotted near human habitations, the rapid-response teams will swing into action,” said Kapoor. The wildlife department has been directed to set up a telephone number for the teams, so that people could inform them when a leopard is sighted near their place.

“The wildlife wing will also prepare a roster of hunters to gun down the felines threatening the human population,” said an official.

The authorities swung into action following a leopard attack in Mandi last year, after it killed three people, including a woman in the district’s Seraj. Soon after, the wildlife wing set up 15 close circuit cameras to track down leopards. Three different teams also were set up.

DANGER LEAPS EVERYWHERE

Leopards have even wandered in the populated capital town of the state. Last year, wandering leopards crept into a shed near a slaughter house and killed one dozen goats in Krishna Nagar.

The wildlife department has set up six cages at different locations, but so far failed to catch the feline, that is reportedly frequenting the town along with its cubs. “It appears that the feline strayed into the town from the nearby forest, due to prolonged winter; and later began frequenting localities in search of food,” said a forest officer.

According to census carried in the 2004, there were about the 761 leopards in the state, but in the last one decade the numbers has seemingly increased as felines are frequently being spotted near towns, suburbs and villages. (Hindustan Times)

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