Chennai: Wildlife activists are upset with the growing number of leopard deaths due to urbanization and habitat fragmentation of forests in Tamil Nadu and in other parts of the country.
In Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR) in Coimbatore alone, three leopards have died in the last two weeks. While the tiger deaths are recorded, leopard deaths are not documented, admit wildlife enthusiasts. At all India level the number is even alarming.
According to Wildlife Protection Society of India, the leopard mortality has surged in recent years. In 2014, 329 leopards died including 116 poaching. So far in 2015 the number of poaching has crossed the 330 mark
According to a forest ranger in Coimbatore circle, three leopards died including two sub adults and a cub. A sub adult in search of prey drowned after slipping into a sump. Another was found with injuries and could be due to an internal conflict, both the deaths were recorded in Monambaly range of ATR, the ranger added.
Tamil Nadu is a home for about 500-600 leopards with a dense population surviving in Anamalai Tiger Reserve covering Pollachi and Valparai, forest officials said. Leopard density should be studied in detail and experts specializing on the feline should be roped in to study the aspects that would reduce the mortality.
With more conflicts and urbanization close to forest reserves going unchecked, there is an immediate need for scientific approach, opined wildlife conservationist and scientist Dr A. Kumaraguru, member, Sathyamangalam Tiger Conservation Foundation. There can be recommendations like closing all wells and sumps with mesh and moving away villagers from core forest areas if they are willing through adequate compensation.
Growing of dogs in forest area poses danger for the leopards and humans. For instance, there are no stray dogs in Parambikulam and Kalakad tiger reserves and such a model can be implemented to prevent leopards straying in to residential areas, said K.V.R.K. Thirunaranan, founder, The Nature Trust.
Indiscriminate dumping of chicken waste and failure to understand the basics of wildlife is another reason attributing the conflict, he said adding to arrest leopard deaths, there can be a similar project like project elephant and project tiger, so that the wild cat also gets its deserving due, he added.
Location: Tamil Nadu