Corbett’s man-eater of Rudraprayag may have killed 126 people before the legendary hunter-turned-conservationist shot him down in 1925. But in Mumbai, we aren’t doing too badly either! In 2002, leopard attacks in and around the Sanjay Gandhi National Park accounted for the deaths of 36 people. Perhaps a total of 20 were killed from 2000 till 2005.And it’s all our fault.
The National Park has long been seen as a squatters haven by politicians eager to build up vote banks. There is encroachment in the park and buildings on its periphery. The result is a disturbed leopard population of around 40 animals straying into human habitation with disastrous conseuqnces.
How is the problem dealt with – by dislocation. The animals are trapped, taken to the middle of the park and released. They have an unerring homing instinct, so back they come from the place they come to the place they last visited. More human terror, more human screaming. It all seems to have stopped now with the spotlight on the problem of encroachments. Let’s see how long the leopards (and we) stay safe!