The Forest Department has permitted the capture, radio-collaring and tracking of six leopards to better understand their behaviour in a bid to mitigate human-animal conflict.
While individual leopards have not been identified for radio-collaring, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) G.S. Prabhu told reporters here on Wednesday that the next few leopards that venture into human settlements and are captured by the Forest Department would be handed over for radio-collaring.
The leopards would be fitted with GPS collars and tracked for two years, Mr. Prabhu said and added that Sanjay Gubbi of the Nature Conservation Foundation would manage the project.
Secondary data for five years (January 2008 to September 2013) had revealed that leopard-human conflict had occurred in 214 villages in 25 districts of the State, Mr. Gubbi said in a presentation at the department. The highest levels of conflict occur in Mysore, Hassan, Udupi and Tumkur districts.
Leopards were one of the most “conflict-prone” of all wild cat species in India because they were highly adaptable to different habitats, including human-dominated areas, Mr. Gubbi added. In Karnataka, for instance, leopards occupy diverse landscapes — forests, rocky outcrops, irrigated fields and built-up areas — and were not infrequently involved in situations that cause injury or death among human beings and livestock.
Understanding patterns of leopard occupancy, anthropogenic factors that intensify conflict and the efficacy of translocation were keys to mitigate the problem, Mr. Gubbi said. To better understand the spatial distribution of leopard-human conflict, a study was initiated in collaboration with the department in 2012.
A scientific analysis was necessary to understand the distribution, behaviour and prey of the wild cat, both within and outside their natural forest habitat, he said. “Such baseline population data can help draw up and assess long-term conservation measures.”
Mr. Prabhu said that people need to be better informed about how to deal with wildlife and to avoid “hysteria and mob mentality” when they sight dangerous animals. “Wildlife should be viewed from a distance,” he said.