Leopards enter human territory, more may follow this summer

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The recent incident of two leopards drowning in a percolation tank in a sugarcane field in Ambegoan taluka of the district has once again brought the human-animal conflict that rural Pune had been facing for years to the fore.

With water scarcity likely to hit forest areas as well, summer is likely to see more leopards straying into human habitat.

In another case a few weeks back, a leopard was spotted very close to human habitat at Dehu Road but it has not been seen since.

Areas such as Khed, Ambegaon and Junnar in Pune district have witnessed similar incidents causing concern among forest officials.

Shirur MP Shivajirao Adhalrao Patil said that almost 90% of his constituency had been facing the problem. "I get almost two calls a day about leopards straying into human habitat. The animals are captured by the forest department and released into the nearby forest reserve," he said.

Patil said water scarcity in forest areas is likely to result in more leopards entering human habitat in summer.

"Maybe the forest department should cage those animals," he said.

Other than leopards, the area in question is also known for its undulating landscape and sugarcane cultivation. Many a time leopards are seen loitering near the sugarcane fields and in the latest incident two had fallen into the percolation tank and drowned in one field.

Dismissing the view that the animals are straying into the human habitat, wildlife biologist Vidya Athreya said it was a habitat shared both by the animals and humans. "These animals are not intruders but part and parcel of these habitat. They were born in the area and have adapted to the area," she said.

Athreya said the practice of capturing the animals and releasing them into wildlife reserve was a futile exercise as the leopards would make every effort to return to their original pad. "We have the example of a leopard who covered about 200 km over many days to get back to the place where it was captured," she said.

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