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Prep Before Cheetahs Become Free Ranging In Kuno National Park

  When another male cheetah, Obaan,joined the two rock stars – Freddie and Elton -- in yet another bigger enclosure of Kuno national park on November 18, only five female cheetahs remained in smaller bomas in the park where they were released on September 17. Like the three males, the five female spotted cats will also be released soon in larger bomas to run and chase their prey to kill. India’s  wildlife authorities accompanied by the experts from the cheetah conservation fund (CCF) from Namibia   have been taking utmost care and caution  before the  cheetahs in Kuno are ultimately made “free -ranging” meaning released in open to move around the entire length and breadth of the park. “Free ranging cheetahs and their monitoring  will be like a grand finale of the Project Cheetah to be played in Kuno for a longer  period in the coming years'", said a senior official of the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFC&C).  Apprehensions, Concerns  on Chee

Shhhh - Leopard is watching you

Beware of Leopard (Panthera pardus ), the cat could be next door. A leopard in Lucknow mauled over 20 residents as the spotted cat stalked the busy roads in the last week of December in 2021. The wildcat wandered in the state capital of Uttar Pradesh as a team of over 100 members of forest department, police and others continued to make efforts to capture the cat. The city was on a high alert. People were panicking. The wild cat was ultimately caught on December 28. Over 600 kms away in Bhopal, not one but three leopards continue to move in different pockets of the city. There were no reports of any attack on residents. But pug marks and CCTV footage confirmed the presence of leopards in the city. There were reports of the presence of leopards in Pune in Maharashtra and Chattarpur in Madhya Pradesh. But why are leopards attracted to cities in this part of the year. Experts believe it is food-easy prey and garbage dumps of cities- that draws the attention of the animal.

Are They Turning Garbage Eaters ? 

Though leopards are a countryside animal, mostly found in the space between forests and villages, they often wreak havoc in cities. Pushed by large carnivores, they are moving more outside the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. For the past many years , the wild cat has started venturing inside the cities and metros like Delhi and Mumbai. Leopards generally avoid humans but they tolerate proximity to humans better than lions and tigers. They often come into conflict with humans while raiding livestock and domestic dogs. 

Also readLeopards Need Tiger-Like Protection Programmes in India

Many wildlife experts believe that the “ unsustainable land use changes in urban spaces” is fast turning leopards to “garbage eater”. “ As they habituated to city surroundings , a large number of leopards- almost 30 % of  its population - depended on carrion feeding”, a very senior wildlife expert  involved with project tiger for decades said. In cities they look for hotel leftovers and anything proteinous on the garbage dumps, he said .It means over 3800  leopards  from an estimated 12852 leopards found in India may have been roaming in cities looking for food .   This picture of a leopard clicked on a  garbage dump in the city of Sagar in Madhya Pradesh is testimony to the expert comment. A senior researcher of wildlife Institute of India said, “ as the leopard  enters a city, it gets easy prey in the form of  stray cattle, feral dogs   and pigs among others”.

Need to Collar City Leopards

This might be a coincidence that this year a large number of  leopards  intruding in cities were reported in the month of December .Many wildlife experts said that they  have always been around and may be more “noticeable “ this time around. A Wildlife Institute of India  scientist said that  leopards  are more visible  in cities from November to March. This might be the time when they mark their territory  and resource area in cities.  "The government must think of putting radio collar around their neck to  understand the movement and habits of the urban leopards”, many  experts believe. 

Also readProblem Of Plenty: Gir Lions Turn Scavengers As Deadly Virus Stares 

Like in jungles,they would always want to defend their resource area in urban spaces, they said. ‘Status of Leopard in India 2018’ , the report released one year ago in December last year offers an answer to why leopards are venturing out in cities. It said “Despite their widespread distribution, leopard habitats are being increasingly fragmented, and such small fragmented areas with low wild prey densities cannot harbour a sizable population of leopards.This has resulted in leopards venturing out into human- dominated landscapesand ending up in conflicts.

    Form Urban Leopard Conservation Groups

The species is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List because populations have declined following habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching for the illegal trade of skins and body parts. Besides, the wildcat is also  persecuted due to conflict situations. 

Also readSurviving the Toughest Test : A tale Told by Tiger Siblings

Conservationist and biologist Sanjay Gubbi, author of Leopard Diaries: The Rosette in India said  there was little understanding about leopards in India. Earlier this year in an interview to a web portal, he said, “ Habitat loss, poaching of prey species especially outside protected areas, human-leopard conflict, mortality due to vehicular collisions and snares, poaching of leopards for their body parts are some of the serious threats leopards face in India.” .Interestingly, he emphasized on “ forming leopard conservation groups in urban areas where these big cats are found on the periphery of cities and towns”.

Cover Pic: Representational 

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