Tuesday, 12 May 2015

NEWSLINK: Leopards seek a safe haven

As many as six leopards, including an eight-month-old cub, have been reported dead in Gurgaon in less than a year.

While two cases pertain to road accidents wherein the big cats were hit by speeding vehicles, the remaining four carcasses found near a golf course in Manesar are suspected to be cases of poisoning and the matter is pending in the court.

The Aravalli Range, the natural habitat of these big cats, is the oldest fold mountains in India. The northern end of the range continues as isolated hills and rocky ridges into Haryana, ending in Delhi.
The undulating hills of Aravalli not only provide unbelievable natural ambience, but also act as lungs for the whole National Capital Region.

Beside support to human population, the range also supports the important and already exhausted faunal diversity (as established by wildlife census report 2012 which found seven carnivores species on Aravalli Range).

According to wildlife observers, leopards are very shy and are the most adaptable of the large cats and typify wildlife that lives outside forests. Leopards have always lived outside forests, be it tea gardens, fringes of forests, in croplands and they have been reported even from urban areas.

A ban on mining by the Supreme Court a few years ago in the Aravalli area led to an improved habitat which is the primary factor for leopard survival.

The importance of this area is also increased by the fact that it is surrounded by Asolla Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary on Delhi side and a continuous Aravalli chain in Rajasthan which extends up to Sariska National Park.

The Aravalli area, which has a good leopard habitat and is rich in floral and faunal diversity, is also exploited by human greed, mainly because of its proximity to Delhi.

“As many as four roads, including two highways, pass through the Aravalli range bifurcating the natural habitat of the leopard. And two more roads — Kundli-Manesar-Palwal Expressway and Dedicated Freight Corridor — passing through the mountain range are in the pipeline. Neither the departments concerned have provided safe passages to the animals to cross these roads nor have signages been put for the motorists to drive slow in this area. Ideally, barricades should be put on both sides of roads at those points where the possibility of these wild animals crossing the roads is more,” said a source in the forest department.

Though States such as Gujarat and Rajasthan have declared national parks in the Aravalli Range to protect the wildlife, wildlife activists’ demand for a sanctuary in Haryana has long been overlooked.

Over the years, several farmhouses have come up in the range and large chunks of land has been bought by the builders who are now waiting for the change in the definition of the forest to commercially exploit the area.

There was a lot of hue and cry over the recent directions of the Haryana forest department reversing its earlier order and asking officials not to designate lands in the Aravalli range as forests, other than those formally recorded as such.

Vivek Kamboj of Haryali Welfare Society, a non-government organisation, said that the instruments of the present regime were no different from those of the previous government. “The present Haryana government seems keen to ensure that the land sharks finally succeed in devouring the last remaining Aravalli forest of native species that has stood safe for thousands of years. If this is not a forest, how come there is a leopard death? There have been several such instances in the recent past that clearly demonstrates that we are encroaching on forest lands and forcing these animals to move out and get killed. The area from Asola to Sariska is a wildlife corridor. We demand that this should be declared as a sanctuary,” he says.

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