Kerala

Kadassery residents live in fear of wild cats

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The residents of Kadassery, a ward in Piravanthur grama panchayat bordering the woods here in Kerala, have been living in constant fear for the last few days. Repeated leopard sightings, attacks on livestock, and disappearing dogs, have left them edgy and the villagers say there have been a steady spike in such incidents. They believe that the big cat population has swelled in the area, posing a serious threat to their routines.

“Though it is not a new issue, the situation has aggravated of late. In the last 12 days, around 10 dogs have vanished and sightings have been reported from several neighbourhoods. People are panicking, as we have not experienced such frequent sightings and attacks in the past,” says Arya Sasidharan, ward member.

According to the ‘Status of Leopards in India 2018’ report released by the Union Environment Ministry, the State has a total of 650 leopards. But experts say the figure can be far from real and we hardly have any accurate estimate about the leopard population in Kerala.

Figures

“What we have now is a figure based on the tiger census and 650 is an underestimation. It can only indicate the lower limit and the higher limit is unknown,” says E.A. Jayson, scientist and Head of the Department of Wildlife, Kerala Forest Research Institute.

He adds the State is yet to conduct any specific study on human-leopard conflict while the official documentation is more or less based on cases that claim compensation.

“Leopards always stick to their territories and sub-adults are usually kicked out of their mother’s territory when they grow. If they can’t find any prime location inside the forest, they can always stray to village areas and it’s not a new phenomenon. They spill out to human settlements,” he says.

Renjan Mathew Varghese, State director (Kerala), WWF India, points out that increase in numbers cannot be the prime reason for the animals to stray, as Kerala forests can always accommodate more leopards.

“A spate of issues including the depletion of their prey base and old age can contribute to straying. Also, there is no specific documentation of the incidents and attacks other than broad reports of escalating conflict.”

He adds it is not possible to generalise on the basis of species or geography when it comes to addressing human-wildlife conflict. “The issue in Wayanad will be different from Thiruvananthapuram or Pathanamthitta. We need to monitor the forest fringe for a specific period to reach any conclusion,” he says.

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Printable version | May 12, 2021 1:38:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/kadassery-residents-live-in-fear-of-wild-cats/article34362414.ece

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