With a leopard killing a six-year-old boy in Hassan district on Thursday, the focus is now on the frequent man-leopard conflict in the state.
Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Ajay Mishra told Express that steps have been taken to nab the leopard that mauled the boy to death.
“We have put up cages near the village. The Chief Wildlife Warden has powers to order killing of any wild animal if it is found to be a man-eater. In this case, we are exploring all possibilities before opting for shoot at sight,” he said.
A senior forest officer said man-leopard conflict is definitely on the rise in districts like Mysore, Mandya, Hassan, Tumkur, Chikmagalur, Davangere, Chitradurga, Chamarajnagar and Kodagu districts which had thick vegetation several years ago.
The fact that the spotted big cats, which prefer to feast on small wild animals, have taken to human habitats further exposes the fallout of diminishing green cover.
Unlike tigers, leopards are adapting carnivores and they live near human habitation, agricultural fields, dry vegetation and small hillocks due to easy availability of prey.
The Big Cat
The officer said leopards rarely attack human beings.
“The animals target cattle in sheds and stray dogs in villages to fill their stomachs. Rapid urbanisation is one of the main reasons for the frequent attacks on human settlements in villages,” the officer said. These big cats usually wait until sunset and then attack easily available prey.
Although, leopards fall in the schedule list of wild animals, no census has been planned as its population is spread across districts.
Meanwhile, Mishra said captured leopards are left into the wild after treatment for injuries suffered at the hands of people.
Many a times, leopards are mercilessly beaten up and killed before forest officials reach the spot, he said.
Villagers on Guard
The officer said villagers in areas prone to leopard attacks have been instructed to keep their pets within their dwellings, particularly after sunset.
Besides, they have been warned against venturing out after sunset when leopards may be on the prowl.
Sanjay Gubbi, wildlife conservationist and founder of Nature Conservation Foundation, said: “Man-leopard conflict need to be addressed in all seriousness. In 1996, the Forest Department had killed around 23 leopards in Kadur of Chikmagalur district, after the animals killed four people. Conflict areas have to be identified and steps should be taken to prevent such attacks in future. A multi-pronged approach is the need of the hour. Creating a leopard sanctuary is definitely not a solution as they like to live near human habitation.”