Friday, January 30, 2015

Man vs wild: #Leopards breed in fields, say experts

 DC | U. Sudhakar Reddy | January 30, 2015

Leopards live in high densities in rural areas due to easy availability of stray dogs, pigs and calves.

Hyderabad: Has the leopard-human conflict in AP and TS taken a new dimension? Is Maharashtra’s Akole valley phenomenon of carnivorous cats adapting to human habitation being replicated in Andhra and Telangana?

Wildlife experts say that the recent series of incidents wherein leopards have been spotted in five districts in AP and three in TS, close to towns and rural areas, are indications that the big cats are adapting to human habitations. On Thursday as well there were two instances of leopards being spotted, in Anantapur and Kadapa districts.

Imran Siddiqui of Hyderabad Tiger Conservation Society said, “There is no spurt in leopards straying out; in fact they are now adapting to stay close to human habitations. Leopards have started breeding in high crop areas like sugarcane fields. In Tirupati, Visakhapatnam and Hyderabad there have been instances of leopards feeding near garbage dumps. More instances are being reported as people are now more aware of their presence. Goat lifting, cattle kills are taking place.”

Leopards live in high densities in rural areas due to easy availability of stray dogs, pigs and calves. A senior wildlife official of the TS forest department said, “They might have come out in search of food like they stray during summer for water. Leopards can’t feed on adult wild boar as they are strong and difficult to attack.”

AP principal chief conservator of forests, A.V. Joseph said, “They are harmless and are of no danger to humans. In Maharashtra there was a phenomenon of leopards breeding in sugarcane fields. But this is unlikely in AP.

Population stabilises as poaching reduced:
The demand for leopards in international wild life trafficking has decreased according to Wildlife Protection Society of India, while the number of poaching incidents have come down according to the forest department. Tiger killings, however, have increased, but the leopard population is stabilising as they are not targeted by poachers.

Wildlife expert Imran Siddiqui said, “We can’t say leopard population is blooming but they have stabilised. Poaching has come down as there are no takers for leopard skin and bones.”

According to WPSI, the illicit international demand for big cat skins continues, there is virtually no market for leopard skins in India.


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