Jorhat, Dec. 26: The Dibru-Saikhowa National Park may become a “home” for leopards as the forest department is making plans to shift the big cats caught in other locations in Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts to the park in a bid to reduce the increasing man-leopard conflict.
“Dibru-Saikhowa is an island and will form a geographical barrier preventing the leopards moving back to the area from where they were caught,” a forest official said. He added that the homing instinct makes a leopard usually move back to its original place.
“While moving back, the animal often encounters human habitations, thereby creating new areas of conflicts. Shifting leopards to Dibru-Saikhowa would prevent such incidents to some extent,” the official said.
He said leopards caught in Digboi and Duliajan areas and subsequently released in Charaipung and Joypore reserve forests had returned to the places from where they were caught.
With five incidents of leopard depredation occurring in the last fortnight under Tinsukia wildlife division, the forest department in the district is trying hard to keep vigil to prevent mishaps from happening to people as well as the animal.
Two leopards trapped — one in Dinjan military station and another at Hokonguri tea estate — in cages placed by the Tinsukia wildlife division, have been already successfully relocated to Dibru-Saikhowa National Park.
While two other leopards escaped after being caught, another was injured after being hit by a vehicle on the road resulting in posterior paralysis and is now in Assam State Zoo for further treatment.
“The man-leopard conflict has become a serious problem in recent times and we are working on various strategies to reduce these problems. The shifting of leopards to the park will be one such strategy,” he said.
The official also said with leopards breeding effectively in tea garden areas of Upper Assam, a fact brought to light by numerous mother and cub sightings recently, there is always a conflict amongst leopards for a territory of their own.
“If we remove one, it will more often than not be replaced by another leopard,” he said. The official said the best way to reduce these conflicts would be to make the locals aware that they should not attack or disturb leopards.
“Several garden authorities have already started holding awareness campaigns among the labour force in this regard and these have resulted in reducing the conflicts to some extent,” he said, adding that the Baghjan tea estate in Tinsukia district is one such example. “We are also in constant touch with garden authorities where leopards are sighted frequently.”