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Delhi forest dept to create SOP to tackle leopards in urban spaces | Latest News Delhi

The Delhi forest and wildlife department has decided to bring in a standard operating procedure (SOP) to tackle man-animal conflicts and sensitise residents on the steps they must take upon spotting a wild animal, especially a big cat like a leopard, as was the case in the latest incident that took place in Jagatpur on April 1.

Forest Department personnel try to rescue a leopard which entered a house in North Delhi. (PTI)

In the incident, a leopard found itself in the midst of the densely-populated urban village and chased by locals wielding sticks and rods. The ensuing melee, which took place around 5.30 am, left eight people injured before the big cat was cornered in a house, rescued and released in the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary.

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Citing this incident, the department said sensitisation programmes will be held across the capital in the second half of April, which will start with training forest staff in the first phase. The forest officials will then share dos and don’ts with locals, explaining animal behaviours and characteristics, with a focus on Delhi’s leopard-prone areas in north and south Delhi.

A senior forest department official said such programmes aim to prevent incidents where not only the animal suffers injuries, but locals too.

“We have not stopped patrolling north Delhi since the incident. We are now working on beginning sensitisation programmes across Delhi, particularly in leopard-prone areas. Locals will be taught to identify a leopard, particularly in the dark, and steps to take upon spotting one. The animal should not be attacked, provoked or cornered, as it may retaliate in such a case,” the official said.

Experts say that the Jagatpur incident has, again, highlighted the need to teach people not to attack or provoke a stray cat, and the same should form a part of the sensitisation programme.

Nikit Surve, programme head, human wildlife interaction programme at Wildlife Conservation Society, who has worked on sensitising locals near Mumbai’s Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), where leopards venture into urban spaces, said that like any big cat, leopards will attack when cornered.

“Leopard will come close to human habitats where there are stray dogs and cats, or garbage is dumped frequently, where it can scavenge. When coming face to face with a leopard, the first thought needs to be to head indoors and take shelter. If people mob the animal, it will feel cornered and try to either attack or jump away. This is what happened in Jagatpur too,” he said.

Since December 2023, there have been at least four leopard sightings in Delhi, with northern parts accounting for three. In two separate incidents in December 2023, a leopard each was spotted on the NH-44 near Khatushyam temple in Alipur and in south Delhi’s Sainik Farms area. In January, a leopard was spotted in north Delhi’s Bawana.

While the south Delhi sighting was presumed to be of a stray leopard from the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary, the recent sightings in north Delhi are suspected to be of leopards coming through the Yamuna corridor, moving southwards from Uttarakhand.

“This is one the only possible route in north Delhi, along the floodplains. The idea around these sensitisation workshops should be to teach locals more about leopards, with the forest department possibly sharing experiences on dealing with the animal. In almost all cases, the animal has been surrounded by a mob and it has attacked. When left alone, it tries to go its own way. Such practical examples can help people learn better,” said Faiyaz Khudsar, scientist in charge of DDA’s biodiversity parks programme.

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