Thursday, 14 May 2015

NEWSLINK: Experts to study big cat’s behaviour

Forest dept's 5-member committee will try to explore reasons behind why the animal has been specifically targetting kids, even when cattle were in the open

In order to gauge the reason behind the leopards targeting only children in the Junnar taluka, the state forest department has formed a special committee comprising of five conservation experts to study the behaviour and understand the motive behind the attack.

The decision follows a leopard attack on Sunday night in which a two and- a-half-year-old boy lost his life in Dingore village of Junnar taluka.

The most common aspect of the three attacks in less than a month is that they did not target domestic animals, despite having easy access. Also, no child has been mauled or seriously injured.

Confirming the development, Sunil Limaye, chief conservator of forests (wildlife), Pune division, said, "We have formed a special committee to study the big cat's behaviour. After completing the study, we will submit our report to the department by May 31. Currently, we strongly suspect that the same animal is involved in the attacks. We have placed a trap in four different villages to catch the animal."

According to the Junnar forest officials, the deceased, Sai Santosh Mandlik, was sleeping with his parents in an open space in their home. Around 10.30 pm, the leopard attacked Sai and dragged him into the jungle. The family members and villagers tried to rescue Sai but couldn't. The body was recovered on Monday morning.

"We are going to launch a special awareness drive in some villages and are going to intensify night patrolling," said V A Dhokte, deputy conservator of forest, Junnar.

According to the forest officials, leopards are territorial animals and search for prey in the same territory. Due to rising deforestation, these animals are facing scarcity of food and attacking humans.

"The attacks are abnormal as it does not appear to be for a meal. I suspect some human provocation must have trigged it off, but it is very difficult to gauge the exact reason behind these attacks. The most striking aspect is that the leopard did not target domestic animals," said Vidya Athreya, a wildlife biologist and research associate with the Centre For Wildlife Studies and Wildlife Conservation Society.

Referring to a Russian study, she said, "A few years ago, many leopard attacks were reported in a particular area in Russia. After studies were conducted, it was found that a female leopard was targeting people in the particular area as her cub was hit by a vehicle in the past. We need to consider all these aspects in the study."

According to department records, since 2009, three deaths have been recorded due to leopard attacks. Last year, there were 339 incidents of leopard- domestic animal conflict, while this year, 18 such cases have been reported.

On April 17, five-year-old Pravin Dudhawade was killed in leopard attack in Khamundi village of Junnar taluka, while three-year-old Renuka Waghmare from the same village was injured in the attack.

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