MYSURU: The recent poisoning of six leopards in a gap of 20 days near Nanjangud and HD Kote have made environment activists put pressure on forest officials to catch the culprits immediately to send out a strong message.
This is not the first time that man-animal conflicts have led to death of wildlife. In 2009, four elephants were found dead at Ullahalli Left Bank canal near Kapasoge. A chemical analysis of cyanide was used to kill the pachyderms. The Karnataka High Court ordered the forest department to constitute a committee by the forest department to conduct a study. But more than 10 years later, the culprits are yet to be caught and punished.
In the leopard deaths, a half-eaten carcass of a stray dog, laced with poison, was found near the dead leopards, which prima facie indicated that people living nearby were responsible for the killing of big cats. Forest officials have sent carcasses of the leopards to the Institute of Animal Health and Veterinary Biologicals in Bengaluru as there is no dedicated wildlife forensic lab near wildlife habitats here.
Experts said that such incidents are recurring as there was no action was taken against those responsible for elephant deaths. Dr Nagaraj, a veterinarian, who has worked with wildlife capturing elephants and tigers for the last two decades, felt that it is difficult to blame farmers or landlords for such wildlife deaths as leopards might have caught the poisoned dog somewhere else and brought it to the field. There have also been cases of miscreants poisoning wildlife to put owners of farm lands in trouble, he added.
Villagers alleged that it is difficult for them to graze their cattle, sheep and goats as there is a threat of big cats. Also, the compensation paid for the death of cattle never reaches them. Govinda Nayaka of Madanahalli said that when he was grazing his herd near Kabini Right Canal, a leopard attacked his three sheep. When he raised the alarm, it left the kill and disappeared.
“We have lost our crop because of wild boar menace. Peacocks, whose population is increasing, have destroyed our flower plants and vegetable crops,” said Prabhudev of Gollur. Experts said that more leopards are straying into human habitations as there is no traffic on roads because of the Covid-triggered lockdown.
Dr Prayag HS, a veterinarian, an assistant professor and chief veterinary officer at Veterinary College, Hebbal, Bengaluru said, “Leopards are often sighted after dark and they try to find spots in sugarcane fields. But their presence scares people and that is why you see incidents of poisoning of leopards.”
Prayag, who has done research on human-leopard conflict and mitigation in agri-pastoral landscape, said that peaceful coexistence and better scientific understanding of animal behaviour is a must along with awareness and education of stakeholders.
DCF KC Prashanth said that they are waiting for the report to confirm the cause of leopard deaths. He said, “We have rounded up five suspects and started interrogating them. They have some leads that will help us solve the case.”