The authorities have taken 357 leopards in captivity and translocated majority of the leopards in Karnataka from the time period starting 2009 to 2016 indicating the human conflicts in terms of violating the guidelines given by Union Environment Ministry. The report was revealed from the study conducted by Mysuru based Nature Conservation Foundation.
The study conducted gives alarming details based on the analysis of questionnaire survey, stating that 64 per cent of field managers were negligent and not acquainted with the guidelines and only a mere 1.9 per cent follow them.
According to the guidelines issued in 2011, conducting activities like capturing and translocation of leopards is discouraged and and might invoke increasing conflict.
Published in the Journal of International Wildlife Law and Policy in the previous month, the study conclusively states that the ministry guidelines had no impact on Karnataka. From the 357 leopards, 314 were the impacted from the captures in Karnataka. From the 314 leopards, 268 were translocated to the various other forests, 34 were captured and 12 of them passed away. Around 29 of the translocated leopards were executed by the locals and the remaining were traversed to protective areas.
Leopards have been indexed into “vulnerable” category by the International Union or Conservation of Nature. Leopard is a Schedule 1 animal according to the Wildlife Protection Act, it demands complete protection, also consider the declining population of leopard subspecies by 70 %.
The study’s lead author, Sanjay Gubbi emphasizes on the ‘357’ number in 8 years, “Much more awareness regarding the guidelines and engagement with field-level officers is needed to ensure the implementation of the guidelines. We have a federal system and wildlife is on the concurrent list. It should not be a few biologists sitting and developing guidelines. Inputs should be sought from state forest departments and there should be capacity building of field staff.”
Leopard capture has grown more in Karnataka over the years though not other states, says Vidya Athreya, a Pune-based wildlife biologist specialised in leopard human conflict. She said, “That is because, as the authors state, there is no engagement with the different groups of stakeholders which are important to reducing the perception of threat. In Maharashtra, for instance, many areas that had a lot of traps in the past have reduced it a lot, especially Mumbai, because we follow the guidelines, engage with the important stakeholders including the media to bring about the change.”
The Karnataka forest department remained silent on the issue over any immediate comment.