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Are Lion Tailed Macaque More Fortunate than Panna Tigers: A Tale of Two Projects

Almost a  year after the Karnataka high court stayed the project that had further threatened the already endangered lion tailed macaque (LTM) ((Macaca silenus), endemic to the Sharavathi river valley nestled in the Western Ghats; the sword of Damocles continues to hang over the primates. The Karnataka Power Corporation Limited (KPCL) had launched a geothermal survey  with heavy machines to ascertain if the 2000 MW underground pump storage hydro-electric project was feasible. Besides LTM, the Sharavathi river valley is also home to a diverse array of species and sustains very rich biodiversity. Though the  court stay continues, the south Indian state has not yet withdrawn the project. For the time being, the power project may not have been in the priority list of the government after the change in the political guard, it continues to stare at LTM menacingly. Sharavathi Valley, a Jewel in the Western Ghats The project was proposed within the core area of 902 sq km in the Sharavathi Valle

Victims of Drones and Selfie Seekers, Jawai Leopards on the Brink



Leopards found in the famous granite hills of Jawai are in deep trouble. Encroachers at the Jawai Leopard Conservation Reserve (JLCR) in Rajasthan have reportedly crossed almost all the limits threatening the very existence of the spotted cat, about 60 to 65 in numbers. There is a history of 150 years of coexistence of the elusive cat with humans in the region but overdose of wildlife tourism is all set to disturb the environmental equilibrium. Drones fly over the big cats and gypsies are driven right in front of the caves of the leopards as the tourists take selfies, a report prepared by a sub divisional officer ( SDO) in July 2020 revealed.  The SDO also annexed pictures of   drones flying over leopards and a number of gypsies parked in front of  the animal caves. Wildlife experts fear that increased human activity may push leopards away from the reserve or the human interference may lead to man-animal conflict.

Water Body with Spectacular Surroundings

Jawai is a stunning landscape surrounded by granite rocks. Jawai dam—the biggest dam in western Rajasthan, the  flora and fauna around, chirping of  birds  coupled with the assured and regular sighting of leopards make the place a hot tourist spot on the granite rocks of Aravalli hills. The turbaned  rabari tribes people add  further colour .Built across the Jawai river, a tributary of Luni river, in Pali district near Sumerpur town of Rajasthan , the dam provides water to Jodhpur and other nearby areas . It was built by Maharaja Umaid Singh of Jodhpur. About 130 kilometres south of Jodhpur , Jawai  is a small village in Pali district of Rajasthan.

Also readLeopards Need Tiger-Like Protection Programmes in India

 Besides leopards,  one can also see  hyena, white fox, sloth bear, jungle cat, neelgai , porcupines and  crocodiles among others . Jawai also gives you many vantage points from where you can take some amazing photographs of the whole region. The entire place gives you a panoramic vision especially if you see it from the Jawai Dam.  The Jawai forest was previously a closed wildlife area. On February 23, 2010, the state government declared it as Jawai Bandh Leopard Conservation Reserve. As only 19.79 square kilometres is included under the reserve and leopards are found outside this protected area, either on revenue or government land,  the forest department has expressed its helplessness to act on the matter. The department is  working on the issue to ”resolve it”. As it cannot interfere directly, the department is taking the help of high-tech thermal and infrared cameras to monitor the  leopards. But, conservationists claimed , this is an eye wash.

The Report that Exposed the Nexus


On July 23, the then SDO of  Pali district submitted a sensational report , an eye opener, to the  then collector. The report said that a large number of foreigners visit Jawai leopard caves but they  were disillusioned with the way  conservation laws are violated. The SDO then revealed the violations. “ Drones are used in the area during the breeding season of leopards leading to infertility. Their  number had gone up during the lockdown”, he said. In  places like Sena and Perwa , attempts are made to take gypsies very close to leopards. Search lights mounted on gypsies  are  thrown on leopards. Besides,people continue to take selfies with leopards.

Also readTiger Checks in a Bandhavgarh Hotel

Their ( leopards’) life is endangered as the gypsies reach right close to their  dens of and other remote regions. Leopards are chased and cornered  by gypsies. The SDO said that 4 cameras should be installed at the places where tourists visit in large numbers. After cable network was laid, poles were also erected but the cameras are yet to be installed. In fact,Eight cameras were sanctioned but only 4 were installed that too in the zones where  there is hardly any  visitor.  

Rajasthan Must Act Before it is Too Late

Though leopards are revered in the region and there are idols of the big cat found in many of the local temples, mistreatment of the animals have left many of the tribesmen angry. Leopard is one of the most elusive cats and is sighted with great difficulty in national parks, sanctuaries and other protected areas . Most of the time, this predator ventures out in the night in search of prey .It camouflages in the woods making its sighting very difficult. But in Jawai, the sighting is not only assured, one can take a selfie also with the cats. 

Also readTale of Missing Tigers of Ranthambhore: 4 More Takes the Count to 34

A thriving wildlife tourism and the money generated through it has forced the people to keep their mouth shut, a local bureaucrat said.  They also alleged a nexus of the influential tourism lobby, politicians and a section of the state forest department responsible for the conservation.  The Union ministry of environment and forest and Rajasthan government along with other stakeholders must step in and ensure that  the leopards are protected and the fascinating success story  of Jawai is not reduced to a money-making business.

Cover Image and Jawai Dam Pics Courtsey : Laxman  Parangi 

Images  of Drone and Gypsies on the Hill from the SDO's Report 

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