By C.S. Kotteswaran
Chennai: Fatal leopard attacks continue in Tamil Nadu exposing the forest department’s inability in handling wildlife human conflicts.The department uses an ancient practice of trapping leopards using bait ignoring scientific approach prescribed by the National Tiger Conservation Authority of India.“In 2014, three people died in Satymangalam due to leopard attacks. The forest department, during the first fatal attack captured a leopard and termed it as a man eater and translocated it. The question here is whether the original man eater has been trapped or not,” wondered wildlife activist S. Jeyachandran of TN Green Movement.
There are no scientific data to prove that the trapped leopard is a man-eater, but deaths due to leopard attacks continue, he added.“Besides Valparai, Satymangalam of late has emerged a hot spot for wildlife encounters,” said wildlife biologist A. Kumaraguru, member of Satymangalam Tiger Conservation Foundation, a board formed by the Tamil Nadu state forest department.
There is a need for more scientific approach like carrying out DNA tests near the encounter spots. DNA tests on the dead person and the evidences of predator like hair has to be documented, to zero in on the man-eaters, he explained.NTCA guidelines in handling conflicts related to leopards and tigers are not followed, he said. TN wildlife officials are yet to upgrade their operations on wildlife encounters, he opined.
According to animal behaviourist F.M. Jerold, animal welfare officer, Animal Welfare Board of India, translocation of any animal is against the animal welfare and is a violation under Section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960.
Further there is a need to bring in more expertise to deal with human animal conflicts. TN is witnessing an increase in the animal - human conflicts in the recent past and AWBI would soon approach the state forest department on actions and solutions envisaged to control the conflicts.