The current practice of translocating leopards from conflict area, in vogue since many years, will be disbanded in due course as Karnataka is set to establish multiple rehabilitation centres to house leopards and tigers captured from conflict zones.
Senior officials of the Karnataka Forest Department are already studying similar facilities elsewhere in the country. While one team is in Jamnagar in Gujarat to study the Greens Zoological Rescue and Rehabilitation Kingdom developed by Reliance Industries Ltd., another team has visited Kanha National Park and Bandavgarh in Madhya Pradesh, besides Pench in Maharashtra, and the Transit Treatment Centre established for wildlife at Nagpur.
Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Kumar Pushkar told The Hindu that the costing was being worked out and based on the reports, the final proposal will be submitted to the government within a week. The plan is to construct multiple leopard sanctuaries each with a capacity to house at least 200 to 250 leopards and take care of them, said Mr. Pushkar.
At least 100 to 150 leopards are being captured in the State every year and hence rehabilitation centres – each with a capacity to house 200 to 250 leopards – have to be built every alternate year till the problem subsides in conflict zones, said Mr. Pushkar.
‘’We are looking at different models and the one at Jamnagar run by Reliance houses around 200 leopards and it could serve as a model not only for leopards but also tigers,” he added.
‘’This is part of the long-term plan as in future the conflict is set to increase and hence the State wants to be prepared. Though it will be ideal to have one rehabilitation centre in every forest circle, we will start with places where the conflict is very high as in Hassan, Kodagu, and Mysuru,” according to another official.
Recently, conservation biologist Sanjay Gubbi had written to the Chief Minister and senior officials of the Forest Department calling for establishing leopard rehabilitation centres given the rate at which they were being captured, and had also called for disbanding the translocation of captured leopards.
A senior official said the department was also thinking on similar lines as translocation was not solving the conflict issue, but was only shifting and spreading it. ‘’Going forward, sterilisation of such animals will also be conceived once the basic facilities are in place,” the official added.
While nearly 120 leopards have been captured in Karnataka since April 2022, 62 leopards were trapped and captured in Mysuru circle alone during the same period.
According to a study conducted by Mr. Gubbi and his team, there were nearly 2,500 leopards across 29 districts in Karnataka but more than 50% of the conflict occurred in Mysuru, Mandya, Hassan, Tumakuru, and Ramanagaram.