As tall fields of sugarcane eat steadily into the scrub jungles of Junnar, Maharashtra, the residents of the forests and villages come into conflict. As human habitation inches into leopard habitat, the sleek felines find their prey base dwindling, their water bodies drying up and their territory shrinking at an alarming rate, forcing them into the neighbouring villages and farms. With incidents of conflict on the rise and both people and animals in peril, there is critical need for better trained, well-equipped forest guards patrolling the area to mitigate any conflict that may arise.
To this end, Wildlife SOS organizes a number of training programs and awareness workshops in the region and runs the Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre in Junnar that rescues leopards from conflict situations and rehabilitates those that are no longer equipped to survive in the wild. In the last few months we have carried out a series of rescues of leopards trapped and nearly drowning in wells and have found a litter of abandoned cubs in a fire, which we were able to successfully reunite with their mother. We also organize capacity building programs for field staff involved in the mitigation of man-animal conflict and hold awareness drives for affected locals educating them about avoidance techniques and proper steps to avoid leopard attacks, including avoiding roaming around the villages at night or handling unattended cubs they may come across.
Dr. Ajay Deshmukh, the senior veterinarian at the Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre was recently invited to address an audience of fifty forest guards from the Junnar district at a training program organized by the Junnar Forest Department. The event, held last Wednesday, was carried out in the presence of District Commissioner of Forests V.A. Dhokate and Range Forest Officer Sachin Ragatwan.
Dr. Ajay enumerated common situations that leopards need to be rescued from, and the protocol that must be observed during such operations. The guards were informed about safe and effective rescue Procedures that must be used when leopards are trapped in wells, when they have snuck into villages or homes, when they are caught in crude traps set out by vengeful locals or when abandoned cubs are found in the fields. With his vast experience in the field, having successfully executed a startlingly large number of rescue operations in the area, Dr. Ajay was the perfect person for the job, imparting knowledge earned over years of first-hand experience and dedicated work. The talk concluded with a demonstration on safe and proper methods to use trapping cages and precautions to be taken when employing the same during rescues.
The lecture was immensely informative and very well-received. We’re sure it will play a vital role in the mitigation of man-animal conflict in the region, making it safer for leopards and people to coexist peacefully.
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