Prelims Level
Mains Level
Prelims Syllabus : Mains Syllabus : Paper – III Conservation
  • A study of patterns of leopard attacks here reveal that some areas are high-risk zones requiring urgent conservation measures for the safety of both man and beast.

About:

  • There has been an increase in severity of human-wildlife conflicts in India in the last few decades with tiger, Common leopard and Asian elephant being the three most problematic species reported to cause extensive damage to human lives, livestock and property. Today human leopard conflicts are reported across India with major hotspots being Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra
  • The foothills of the eastern Himalaya in northern West Bengal called the doors, a landscape comprising tea plantations and forests alone have witnessed more than 700 leopard attacks on people between 1990 and 2016.
  • In the western Himalaya (Pauri Garhwal in Uttarakhand), numerous leopards have been killed in retaliation to the human deaths and injuries they have caused. In the western Himalaya (Pauri Garhwal in Uttarakhand), numerous leopards have been killed in retaliation to the human deaths and injuries they have caused.
  • The researchers find that around 97% of animal attacks in the dooars and 60% in Pauri resulted in human injuries. While a majority of the victims in Pauri were children and youth, middle-aged tea estate workers were most at risk in the dooars.
  • As part of the study, the team also used these data to develop a predictive risk map. This reveals that central and northern Pauri, as well as the protected and peripheral areas of central and south-western dooars are ‘high risk zones.

Cause:

  • While an extensive protected area (PA) network and land allotted for agricultural production were cited as two major reasons.
  • Other cause of escalation of conflicts in the recent years has been attributed to habitat loss, fragmentation, degradation due to increasing anthropogenic pressures, particularly development, reducing tolerance levels to wildlife, and local abundance of problem species. When the interface between forests and rural inhabitations is a continuum, the leopard has adapted to live in the fringes of human habitations. Due to the behavioural plasticity, wide choice of prey and adaptability to survive on a wide range of human altered habitats, the smaller, agile and adaptable leopard is most often implicated in attacks on people.
  • When there are incidents of large cats such as tiger and leopard killing and injuring humans, it evokes a serious public backlash and a setback for conservation efforts.
  • Though studies have been periodically conducted within PAs on certain aspects of ecology of such large mammals in India, extensive research on such aspects in regions where they share space with humans are limited. Since the last decade, there has been large scale human out-migration from the mountainous region to the plains due to lack of sustained livelihood resources.

Way Forward:

  • They suggest that immediate measures including regular monitoring by wildlife managers and local response teams, providing proper lighting in villages and clearing bushes around houses would be crucial to mitigate conflict.
  • Knowledge gained through such studies in human-dominated landscapes help solve complex conservation problems such as human-wildlife conflicts where apart from the dynamics of such events, a thorough understanding of the social aspects of conflicts are essential for implementing further mitigation measures.
  • The predictive map highlights potential human-leopard conflict zones and helps formulate mitigation measures for these sites.
  • To reduce livestock depredation respondents opined to use predator proof enclosures and lights around households in Pauri whereas in North Bengal people vouched for relocating problem animals, introducing native wild prey in forests and installing predator proof enclosures.
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