Friday, June 12, 2015

Himachal Pradesh Forest Department to Launch Human-Leopard Awareness Campaign


The Forest Department of Himachal Pradesh has planned to launch a crucial awareness campaign in gram panchayats, schools, and other organizations. The department plans to provide tips on how to avert chances of human-leopard conflict. Representatives have already begun the campaign in some schools in the capital city of Shimla. In addition to providing information through brochures and posters, children are being taught how to avoid and react when seeing a leopard. The process of leopard conflict outlining initiated all over Himachal Pradesh is coming close to completion. The shared boundary of Bilaspur, Hamirpur, and Mandi districts has shown the highest incidents of conflict, although it is yet to be determined if the leopard population in the region is equally high. The evaluation process of the state's leopard population is yet to be attempted ever since the previous exercise undertaken in 2004 showed the population number estimated to be roughly 785. According to Divisional Forest Officer Satpal Dhiman, majority of attacks have occurred during dusk between 6 and 9 pm which means people can be instructed to not venture out during those hours or take necessary steps while stepping out of their homes. He further added that provisional studies of the high and low-conflict areas would be accomplished to see the reasons of the conflict. Depending on the results of the studies and reasons of the conflict, the forest department will take some measures to deal with the problem. Steps will include monitoring the leopards' movements and studying their behavior patterns to see why they were attacking the people. The state government had earlier associated Mumbai-based biologist Dr. Vidya Athreya who is working on leopards to initiate the studies. In order to attempt the assignment of a scientific leopard survey, the forest department will be needing more camera traps since there are only 200 set up all over Himachal Pradesh. Furthermore, majority of these traps are set up inside national parks and sanctuaries, although there are ten in and around Shimla.
Leopard attack figures and total compensation granted

The Forest Department of Himachal Pradesh is indeed taking a major step in tackling the state's human-leopard conflict problem through an awareness campaign. This includes educating the public about what to do to avoid a fatal conflict with a leopard. In the last ten years, Himachal Pradesh saw 306 leopard attacks on people with majority of incidents taking place in districts like Shimla. Earlier, it was generally believed that Mumbai was where majority of leopard attacks are known to occur. However, because of the big cat's extensive range across the Indian subcontinent, attacks take place in any part of India. Such incidents are known to result in retaliatory killings of leopards which brings villagers and ordinary townspeople into conflict with wildlife officials. This type of hostility should not go on forever. Wildlife officials and regular people must join forces together in preventing leopard attacks or any other attacks from wild animals by coming up with safe alternatives to avoid having either the animal or human seriously injured or killed. In Mumbai for example, leopard attacks on people are a result of mismanagement of garbage which attracts stray dogs in search for food scraps. The dogs, in turn, attract leopards and when people get in the way, the outcomes are devastating. This is why it is essential to improvise the management of garbage in the Mumbai area and remove stray dogs to prevent any lethal encounters with leopards. In addition, the public should be thoroughly educated on how to avoid and react when seeing a leopard like their counterparts in Himachal Pradesh. Awareness campaigns concerning wild animal attacks should be implemented around the world in order to maintain a steady relationship between people and dangerous animals. Predatory animals like leopards perform a crucial role in maintaining the balance of nature by preying on herbivorous animals. Without their existence, ecosystems where they used to live would be changed dramatically with tremendously negative effects.

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