‘Human development in forests leading to wildlife attacks’
AP Chief Conservator of Forests says discarded food waste on roads and hills is attracting the wildlife, requests TTD officials to install flood lights along pathways
VISAKHAPATNAM: The incident involving a six-year-old girl falling victim to a leopard attack in the Tirumala region has sent shockwaves across the State. However, such attacks are not new, as several similar incidents have occurred quite frequently in the past. These occurrences raise questions about the factors leading to these attacks within the Seshachalam hills.
The Seshachalam hills, a range stretching from North West to South East over a length of approximately 80 km and a width varying between 32 to 40 km, is located within the Tirupati and Kadapa districts of the Rayalaseema. These hills, which form a part of the Eastern Ghats, are primarily situated in the Tirupati district.
“The Seshachalam hills have long been a natural habitat for the big cats, with a historical presence that rivals even the renowned temple itself. However, as human development progressed, including the construction of the Ghat roads, the balance of the leopards’ environment has been disturbed to some extent,” said Andhra Pradesh Chief Conservator of Forests, Shantipriya Pandey, while talking to TNIE.
Citing what factors might have contributed to leopards’ preference for hunting humans instead of their natural prey, she observed, “Leopards are nocturnal creatures, often hunting under cover of darkness. The unfortunate young girl found alone and not in a group, became a vulnerable target due to the dimly lit walking track. The lack of light and isolated presence made her an easy prey for the predator.”
Speaking to TNIE, wildlife expert Aditya Panda shed light on the nature of these incidents. “Most leopard attacks are accidental kills, often followed by the animal retreating after the incident. Leopards, as opportunistic predators, occasionally focus on children. It is important to note that a single attack on a person doesn’t necessarily indicate a repeat behaviour.”