Sunday, 17 May 2015

NEWSLINK: 3 leopards shifted from Kodanad in one month, activists cry foul

Tamil Nadu forest officials have trapped and translocated three leopards from Kodanad area in the Nilgiris district in the last one month, violating guidelines and raising the hackles of wildlife experts. 

According to norms laid down by the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), wild animals like tigers and leopards can be shifted to a different location only if they are declared cattle-lifters or man-eaters. But, experts point out, that was not true in the case of leopards of Kodanad, a high security area known to be a retreat of former chief minister J Jayalalithaa. 

Forest officials confirmed that three leopards - a female and two males - were trapped and translocated from Kodanad and surrounding areas recently. While a male leopard was trapped in Kodanad in the second week of March and released in Avalanche, about 45km away, a female leopard was translocated to the same area a week later. On April 10, a male leopard was trapped near Curzon Estates in Kilkotagiri, about 15km from Kodanad, and released in Upper Bhavani range.

Expressing shock at the translocation of big cats at the drop of a hat, an MoEF official said there are clear guidelines on translocating animals. He said that as there were no complaints of the animals being cattle-lifters or man-eaters, it was not right to disturb the animals. 

However, state forest officials maintained that they shifted the leopards only after receiving complaints from local people. 

Relocation harmful for leopards, locals 

A senior official, on condition of anonymity, said there was information about the movement of a tiger in Kodanad. 

"Following this the officials were asked to lay traps to catch the animal. But, the tiger proved elusive and leopards got caught in those traps. These leopards were translocated," he said. 

Wildlife filmmaker and conservationist Shekar Dattatri said: "It is shocking that disregarding the findings of years of research and clear guidelines issued by the MoEF, officials appear to be on a reckless leopard translocation spree. It is really important for senior officers to explain the big cat behaviour to their political bosses and persuade the government against this practice, which is harmful to both leopards and local people." 

Wildlife biologist Vidya Athreya who is doing research on leopards said in most cases big cats are translocated due to political pressure, which she said was a common practice across the country. 

"Politicians by pressurizing forest authorities to translocate big cats are helping finding a solution to a problem, but they are creating a new problem," she said. 

She said leopards are territorial animals, and if one animal is removed from its habitat and released in another forest, the vacant space will soon be occupied by another leopard. 

"The leopards normally avoid encountering humans and they go hunting only at night. When an animal is shifted to a new area, it may find it difficult to look for its feed and may not know about the human movements there. So, this may lead to man-animal conflict," she said. 

Experienced veterinarians pointed out that when a leopard is released in another forest, it would lead to fights with the animal already living there. This would affect the population of big cats in the state, they said.

Article here

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