Sources say the reasons are better known to the officials, though the local wildlife enthusiasts allege it was being done to please a few netas who advance a “concern for people” argument. “There has been no human-leopard conflict and there has been no death due to leopard attacks in the region. On occasion, these animals were either found sitting on boulders adjoining the villages or were sighted pouncing on canines (dogs and wolves),” said Santosh Martin, a wildlife enthusiast here.
“ It is common for these animals to stray outside the villages and canines are their prey. The villagers have complained to the local leaders who have forced the forest department to act,” he added.
K S Abdul Samad, another wildlife enthusiast and president, Society for Wildlife Adventure and Nature (SWaN), a resident of Hospet says he is conscious about the dwindling leopard population here.
“What is worrying is that the leopards from here are being shifted to Dandeli National Park, which is a western ghats region and we are not sure whether these animals which have adapted to dryland can survive there,” he says.
More than half-a-dozen leopards have been shifted from the region here, all from Hospet region during this year. One leopard was captured and shifted to Dandeli in April 2011. It was followed by another in June 2011 from Joga forest fringes, while another was shifted from Kurekuppa village recently in the first week of August (2011). In addition to this, three were captured in Gangavathi by the department.
The locals claim that three leopards were captured from adjacent areas of Bellary.
Well-known felinist Ravi Chellam said he was not aware of the matter but stated if such a thing is happenings it is in violation of the guidelines issued by Ministry of Environment and Forests issued in April 2011.
According to the guidelines, removal of the leopards from one location does not help in any way as the leopards exhibit amazing homing instincts and many animals traverse through other densely populated landscapes to reach back to their original territories.
The guidelines prescribe that a leopard should be captured only in two instances - first, where it has attacked a human being, and second, where it is trapped - in a room, for example.
The guidelines, apart from emphasising that capture should be the last option, recommend that captured leopards should be released within the immediate vicinity of their captivity - that is, within their home range. as the research has shown that the translocation of leopards to faraway places only leads to conflict - either another leopard might take its place or the conflict might spread to the place of translocation, or the translocated leopard will try to return home, thereby running into conflicts with humans along the way.
The guidelines also recommend that leopards that have attacked humans or have been held captive for more than a month should not be released into the wild. However the forest officials were not available for comment.
An edited version of this article was published in Deccan Herald and can be read from the link below: