Saturday, February 20, 2016

Bengaluru: Where’s the leopard? Foresters clueless

Published Feb 17, 2016
BBP rescue centre meant for animals rescued from circuses, and not for robust, active big cats.
Forest officials set up cage to trap the big cat near in Whitefield, Bengaluru on Tuesday
 Forest officials set up cage to trap the big cat near in Whitefield, Bengaluru on Tuesday
Bengaluru: By contradicting himself the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Dr Ravi Ralph has landed himself and his department in a spot. He now says that “As it was blind in the left eye and did not have a canine tooth, we decided to keep him at the rescue centre and treat him. If it has escaped, and is there in the forest, it can take good care of itself, but then we wanted to be on the safer side for the sake of the animal.”

Dr Ralph had stated earlier that “the leopard is taken to the Bannerghatta Biological Park for medical examination as it has two handicaps – its upper left canine tooth was broken, and it has glaucoma like ailment in its left eye. The broken tooth would be a handicap for the leopard, and coupled with the problem in the eye, the leopard could have strayed into human habitats to hunt its easy preys such as dogs. That is the reason, a decision was made not to release the leopard back into the wild. We have asked the director of Bannerghatta Biological Park to accommodate the animal in the rescue centre.”

Leave alone the leopard rescue operation that was ineptly and unprofessionally handled by the forest department officials, the escape of the big cat from the rescue center have raised questions on the department’s very existence. Defending the forest department, a source, who did not want to be named, said the animal holding cages at the Bannerghatta Biological Park Rescue centre are built as per standards and design specifications as observed by the Central Zoo Authority of India. They were constructed in 2000-2001 to take care of wild animals rescued from circuses and for the injured or elderly cats that won’t be able to hunt for themselves.

These cages were designed and meant for such animals and not for robust and active big cats captured from the wild. It was out of domain for forest officials to understand how the active wild leopards would “stay” in a cage like domesticated wild cats or injured/elderly wild cats, added the source.

The escape of the wild leopard from the rescue center was a second slap on the face of the forest department, after they bungled while capturing the leopard from Vibgyor School last Sunday. Right from a senior woman forest official who was spotted wearing traditional clothing with sandals for field work during the leopard rescue operation to the forest department officials using worn-out sports nets from the school dump-yard to catch the adult leopard proves the point, claim sources from the department. Now that the leopard has escaped right from under their nose, it shows how inept and how handicapped the department is, the source added.

During leopard rescue operation at Vibgyor School last Sunday, the forest department officials and BBMP forest cell rescue volunteers were mute spectators when public burst crackers and some residents brought dogs to bark near the school to drive away the leopard, not seeing the danger that if the leopard would escaped from the school and would have entered into nearby apartments or shanties were people were residing.

The officials and volunteers were also found using discarded sports nets and other equipment from the school for capturing the leopard which displayed the handicaps of the forest department. The rescue operation lasted for over 10 hours, after which the leopard was captured after three persons got injured including Sanjay Gubbi, the wildlife scientist who was mauled by the big cat on his hand.

Stepped up vigil
On Tuesday morning, two rounds of patrolling were conducted by the forest department officials who sensitized villagers in the surrounding areas besides the rescue center where the leopard escaped from on Monday morning.

This was done as a routine exercise, and no sighting of the said leopard was reported so far.
The department officials have also increased vigil on the existing lot of wild animal stock inside the rescue center. “Vigilance has been increased inside the rescue center too. Earlier we were checking on the wild animals at the rescue center only twice a day, but from Tuesday, officials including range officers once, veterinary officers, and watchers are checking on the animals seven to eight times,” a source from the forest department said.

Spotted again?
Meanwhile, on Monday night, there were rumours that a big cat was spotted by some locals near Accenture office in Whitefield area. Forest officials rushed to the spot and placed a cage with a dog as bait


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