Leopard Human Conflict In Uttarakhand- India

Vivek Bahuguna and Praveen Joshi College of Applied & Life science, Uttaranchal University, Dehradun, Govt. P. G. College, Dwarahat, Almora, Uttarakhand, India

2018-07-19 11:07:24

Credit: pexels.com

Credit: pexels.com

Leopard’s attacks on humans have been a serious issue in Uttarakhand, India for many decades. Not a single month goes by without newspaper headline about leopard or a tiger attacks on humans in Uttarakhand. Wildlife experts have attributed that gradual encroachment of forest and decline prays sizes are main cause of increasing human-animal conflicts in the state.

Reports of human encounters with leopards and other wild species with human are a regular feature in the mountain state that is home to several wildlife reserves. The rate of human-animal conflict cases in Uttarakhand is the highest in the country. The seriousness of the menace can be gauged from the fact that leopards have been killed over 600 people and another over 3,100 people had injured in the last 17 years in Uttarakhand. According to Hindustan times, Dehradun issue June 13, 2018 on basis of state forest officials, 182 big cats, including 166 leopards and 16 tigers, as has been declared as man-eaters since the last 15 years after the formation of Uttarakhand in 2000. According to the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), more than 28 leopards lost their lives, highest number in Uttarakhand, taking the toll to 288 half of this year in country. “Man-eating” has been made infamous by renowned hunter turned naturalists like Jim Corbett (1944) after the two extreme Leopard human conflict cases occurred in British India. The first leopard, "the Leopard of Rudraprayag", known as a male man-eater, killed more than 125 people in Uttarakhand and the second, the "Panar Leopard", was believed to have killed more than 400 people in Madhya Pradesh. Both were killed by hunter cum conservationist Jim Corbett.

The leopard widely distributed in the forest across Indian subcontinent region included different state of India such as Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra etc. The Indian leopard (Panthera pardus fusca) is a leopard subspecies listed as vulnerable on the latest IUCN Red List. Their food consists of wild prey species such as chital, barking deer, goral, wild boar, Indian hare, jungle fowl, common langur and monkeys. Due to habitat loss and fragmentation, deforestation, forest fire human pressure mainly hunting, poaching for the illegal trade of skins and body parts, most of their pray size are either extinct or their numbers are too much low to sustain these big cat populations in their natural habitat. So far leopard and tiger are unable to find their natural prey in their home range and making the regular visit in human dominated areas to prey upon the domestic animal, Livestock and often encountered with human also. Leopard attacks may have peaked during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in India, coinciding with rapid urbanization of man, claimed by wildlife activists.

Uttarakhand lies on the southern slope of the Himalaya range and constitutes 93% of mountainous and 64.79% forest of its total geographical area that is rich in natural resources, especially forests where altitude ranges from 200m asl plains to more than 2400m asl snows covered peaks. In large urban spaces like Dehradun, If big cat attack and kill, there are immediately declared as man-eaters and killed but especially in hilly areas which more remote mountainous districts, It is difficult to declare leopard or tiger as man-eaters immediately. The Uttarakhand High Court passed in December 2016, an order that leopards and tigers that have been declared man-eaters should not be killed, but should, instead, be tranquilized and translocated to another forest. While the order passed by the High Court is laudable and helps protect these large cats, this unfortunately does not provide a sustainable solution. The human-leopard conflict in human habitation in Uttarakhand has both dimensions first, safety of human that are affected due to leopard attacks on humans and livestock by on one hand, as well as leopard welfare and conservation on the another hand. In October 2017, the Union ministry of environment forest and climate change had signed a MOU with an agency Germany’s Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) to protect local communities in human-wildlife conflict areas based on awareness and precaution programme in affected areas. Uttarakhand along with Maharashtra and Karnataka states are also a part of this project. In order for this to work, logic says that best way to deprive human leopard confliction, it would be necessary to habitat restoration, increasing natural prey numbers, conducting awareness and precaution programme among rural mountain villagers, better protection of livestock, would probably need to be achieved to manage human wildlife interaction.

The Indian leopard distributed in India, Pakistan, south China, Nepal and Bhutan, They having widespread forested habitat ranging from tropical rain forests, temperate forests, dry deciduous forests and northern coniferous forests. The IUCN assessment, which groups all leopard subspecies together as Vulnerable, recommends a full assessment of the Indian Leopard population. Among the five "big cats", leopards are opportunistic hunters built for strength rather than speed, generally, avoid humans, and they tolerate proximity to humans better than lions and tigers. They often come into conflict with humans when to lose their fear of humans. According to the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), more than 28 leopards lost their lives, highest number in Uttarakhand, taking the toll to 288 half of this year sparks to alarm in India.  There are needed to manage leopard related threats to human safety effectively without compromising leopard population viability or human life and livelihoods.