A small patch of 12 sq. kms area in Haridwar has emerged as one of the most leopard affected areas in Uttarakhand. Man-animal conflicts take place at regular intervals at the Raiwala-Motichur-Nepali farm area, making life for residents of about one dozen villagers miserable. Over one dozen residents have lost their lives in leopard attack in the affected area in the past four years.
The high density of leopards has forced the villagers to live a fearful life. Very recently a CCTV camera captured the footage of a leopard mauling a dog and taking the prey to the jungle. The forest department has fixed about four dozen camera trap in the affected area. The last causality took place on 30 December last year.
Rajaji Tiger Reserve’s director Sanatan Sonker says, “We have obtained camera trap photographs of about one dozen individual leopards at Raiwala-Motichur-Nepali farm area. The density is very high. We recently trapped two leopards and shifted them to other places, even after that big population of jungle cats exist in the affected area.”
In the last 5 years, around11 leopards were trapped and moved to other parts of the tiger reserve. But, even after that operation, the terror of leopards has failed to end in the Raiwala-Motichur-Nepali farm area. The forest department staff are constantly receiving public complaint about leopard sighting in different village areas.
Wildlife Institute of India’s scientist Bivash Pandav says, “The low population of tigers in the western part of the Rajaji Tiger Reserve too has forced the dominance of the leopards in the affected villages.” As many meat shops operate in Raiwala, located in the outskirts of the Haridwar city, the waste is dumped in area located in jungle or near it. Leopards find easy food from waste generated from meat shops. Besides, these stray animals have made Raiwala their permanent homes. The leopards live in a cramped place due to easy availability of food. That too without fighting!
Forest ranger Vikas Rawat says, “After analyzing the camera trap photographs, I can say that the leopards which are active there are not young. They possibly lost their territory to young leopards. Age and lack of fitness forced the leopards to operate at Raiwala-Motichur-Nepali farm area locality.”
The forest department staff faces double challenge~to stop villagers from entering forest area in day time and to prevent animals from venturing in habitat area in night time. Besides leopards, elephants too have become active regularly in the Raiwala-Motichur-Nepali farm area. Making the villagers curse their misfortune.