Living with leopards in Bengaluru

Living with leopards in Bengaluru

Submitted by Newseditor on Fri, 2016-02-12 18:38 Leopards are arguably the most adaptive species created by God. They can live in the core of the forests; they can jell in a village environment; they can settle on the fringe of urban landscapes. They also do well as a species as they can co-exist with us.It wasn’t surprising then that a leopard was captured at the Vibgyor School in Marathahalli earlier this week, after 600 anxious minutes. We have had leopard visitations at Kengeri, Uttarahalli, Peenya and Sumannahalli in the past. We will have these felines visiting us in the future as well.At least 15 leopards have been captured in and around Bangalore and relocated over the past two decades. Some found refuge in the Cauvery wildlife sanctuary, others were confined to enclosures at the Bannerghatta biological park.It is therefore baffling that the Karnataka forest department is ill-prepared to meet such exigencies despite the capture-relocate experience in the past. Evidently, a team of novices attempted to capture the stray leopard at the Vibgyor school. It was not surprising that they botched it up.Lacking experience, the urban deputy conservator of forest (DCF) should have sought the assistance of a team of experts from the Bannerghatta national park. But it wasn’t the case. Obviously, when people without expertise venture to capture an already petrified leopard, someone is bound to be mauled. Wildlife biologist Sanjay Gubbi paid the price and was badly injured in the melee. He is recouping.Considering that leopards have been spotted frequently in the periphery of Bangalore, the forest department should immediately forge a team of dedicated personnel – sharp shooters, encounter specialists -- to meet such eventualities in the future. The team should be on kept on ‘battle’ alert.In such man-animal conflict situations, the department should put all the emergency protocols into perspective. Sadly, there was no ambulance nor was the fire brigade on call. The police also failed to enforce IPC section 144, with as many as 5,000 people being present at the scene of action.Thronging crowds are a bane during such captures, wherein they not only enrage the scared animal, but also put the lives of experts at risk, as in Sanjay Gubbi’s instance.Barely three months ago, a leopard with three cubs was sighted in the Valley School on Kanakapura road.  Whether it has moved back into the Khaglipura range of Bannerghatta is not known.  But every now and then, we hear about a leopard been spotted by children in the vicinity of school, which is adjacent to scrub jungle adjoining the Khaglipura reserve forest.It would be prudent of school managements, which have property near forests, to raise the height of the compound wall and also be prepared for visits from wild animals. Even jungle cats, which aren’t common these days, could scare the hell out of vulnerable school children.The leopard scare last week has kept us on our toes. Hopefully, the forest department will be better prepared when a leopard or an elephant strolls into town.