By Priyam Bagga
The stray dog menace in Pune has so far been pitched purely as a civic issue, raising personal security and health concerns. But this growing band of predators (as the dogs are now being labelled) has wildlife experts worried, given the threat they have begun to pose to the indigenous wildlife population in and around the city, throwing Forest Department officials, animal rights activists and conservationists into a debate on how to handle the situation.
The impact of the growing strays is being felt in wildlife reserves of Nannaj (Solapur), Nagzira (Nagpur), Supe (Ahmednagar), Bhimashankar (Pune district) and Navegaon (Vidarbha region).
“Stray dogs are preying on some critically endangered species listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) such as Great Indian Bustards,” informed Anuj Khare, honorary wildlife warden, Pune and member of State Wildlife Advisory Board.
The dogs chase the birds during their breeding season (when the males display themselves with their black breast band) wreaking havoc on their procreation, he added. Besides the Great Indian Bustard, strays have even managed to threaten wolves, foxes and hares in the region.
The abandoned domestic dogs and other strays have even begun to replace the local predators. “They have become an additional set of predators for the indigenous wildlife to contend with.
The indigenous predators of reserved areas have to be restored to maintain a natural balance,” noted Manoj Oswal, animal welfare officer, Animal Welfare Board of India. “In the Panchvati area of Pune these dogs chase and attack peacocks. A similar problem is prevalent in the rest of the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats,” said noted environmentalist Madhav Gadgil.
Beyond the predatory factor, researchers see other issues. “Stray dogs are also carriers of various diseases which they pass on to the wild animals such as foxes and wolves,” informed Girish Arjun Punjabi, a wildlife researcher with Researchers for Wildlife Conservation.
The conflict between strays and wildlife is a global phenomenon, evident in places where there is human settlements close to forests. The face-off between strays and grizzly bears in the US is an example. More....