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Leopards declining, Forest department clueless

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  28 March 2015 12:00 AM GMT

248 leopards left in Assam, last census 15 yrs back

* 8 leopards killed in 2011

* 6 leopards killed in 2012

* 9 leopards killed in 2013

* 5 leopards killed in 2014

* 2 leopards killed in 2015 (up to March 22)

* Under Section 51 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, some cases registered with regard to leopard killings in the State.

BY OUR STAFF REPORTER

GUWAHATI, March 27: With the rise in population and increasing urbanization, man-animal conflict has increased manifold in Assam. The rise in incidents of man-animal conflict has resulted in the killings of many leopards across the State and the Forest department has so far failed to minimize the problem.

Raising this issue on the floor of the House on Friday, AGP MLA Phanibhusan Chowdhury expressed serious concern and asked Forest minister Etawa Munda to furnish records on the available leopard population in the State. In his reply, Munda said, “As per the leopard census held in 2000, there are 248 leopards left in the State.”

It is really unfortute that the Forest department doesn’t have any data on the present leopard population in the State.

The Forest minister said that no leopard census was conducted in the State after 2000.

It is also shocking that the Forest department has failed to conduct leopard census in the last 15 years due to reasons best known to it. According to Munda, “Due to man-animal conflict, 30 leopards were killed in the State in between 2011 to 2015 (up to March 22). Eight leopards were killed in 2011, 6 in 2012, 9 in 2013, 5 in 2014 and 2 in 2015 (up to March 22). Under Section 51 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, some cases were registered with regard to leopard killings in the State.”

The minister said that 37 leopards were captured by forest officials in Guwahati. When Phanibhusan Chowdhury asked the Forest minister about the number of leopards captured in the city, the Forest minister feigned ignorance.

On the elephant and the monkey population in the State, Munda said, “According to 2011 census, there are 5,420 wild elephants and 1,27,502 monkeys of different species available in Assam. From 2012 to 2014, 12 wild elephants were killed by poachers.”

Later talking to The Sentinel, Chowdhury said, “A threat looms large over the very survival of leopards in the State due to the rise in man-animal conflicts. The Forest department is not at all serious about the survival of leopard population. In the last 15 years, not a single leopard census was conducted by the department concerned. The Forest department must take responsibility for the plight of leopards in the State.”

The AGP MLA further said that like the tiger census, the leopard census should be conducted by the Forest department. “Every animal species has a role in protecting bio-diversity. So the government must take all measures to minimize incidents of man-animal conflict in the State.”

Sources said that wild animals, mainly, leopards are straying into human habitats due to large-scale encroachment of forest land by people and obstructing these wild animals’ corridors in many places of the State.

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