Leopards have always existed on the outskirts of Bengaluru due to the availability of rocky outcrops and dry deciduous forests, which are their natural habitats. However, due to expansion of the city, leopard habitats have been converted into human dwellings, industrial hubs, and highways.
But some patches of leopard habitat continue to exist around Bengaluru, thereby leopards continue to survive in both natural and man-made habitats (for example, maize fields).
There could be 30-35 leopards just in the vicinity of Bengaluru city, in addition to the 40 leopards that are found in Bannerghatta National Park.
In media glare
Extensive use of CCTV cameras and social media are highlighting the presence of leopards bringing them in the media glare. For two days, reports of a chital deer hunted by a leopard are making the rounds in the media and social media. The chital was killed at the edge of B.M. Kaval Reserved Forest.
Apart from B.M. Kaval, leopards are naturally found in U.M. Kaval, Roerich Estate, T.K. Falls, Gollahalligudda, and adjoining areas. These forests are connected to Bannerghatta National Park. Hence, it is natural to find leopards in these areas.
Capturing not enough
Merely capturing leopards and translocating them will not solve the issue, as new leopards may come and occupy the place. We need to build awareness of how to live with leopards. There are a few gated communities, and schools that have accepted and continue to live with leopards.
Either around Bengaluru or in rural parts, it is important that people not panic, and take certain precautions. Leopards do not attack humans, and people are not their natural prey. They are shy animals, and are equally afraid of people as we are of leopards.
(Sanjay Gubbi is a conservation biologist based in Karnataka. His work focuses on the conservation of large carnivores like tigers and leopards)