Whose Responsible for Leading Leopards, Tuskers Into Cities? (Bengaluru, India)


Meera Bhardwaj, The New Indian Express

Date Published


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With sightings of leopard and elephants on the rise in and around the city limits, causing fear and panic among the citizens, wildlife conservationists are warning against catching and transporting these big cats far away from their home ranges.

According to experts, there is a need for concerted action by the state government to stop encroachments into wildlife habitats. There is also a need for awareness campaigns to educate people to keep their surroundings clean and garbage-free.

In the last three years, the sighting of big cats has been reported from Whitefield, Kanakapura Road (NICE Road junction), Kengeri and Tavarakere. In some areas on the outskirts, female leopards have been seen with cubs. Further, Whitefield area often sees big cats near apartment complexes, schools and inside compound walls.

Wildlife experts point out that Bengaluru city is rapidly expanding and moving into the landscapes of the big cats and corridors of the pachyderms. This development, in turn, has witnessed the big cats moving into human landscapes.

Leopard expert Dr Vidya Athreya says capture and translocation is not the solution as another animal will take its place. “Captures have often resulted in attacks and sometimes, these big cats have returned to their home ranges. There are instances when a leopard has travelled 300 km back to its home after capture.”

Although there are not many research studies on leopards outside protected areas, Athreya says that leopards live and thrive in rural landscapes nowadays.

She adds, “These animals take cover in the day and roam in the night for food. Human use areas are rich in food and water. Besides, leopards are attracted to garbage that may have meat pieces and are also food for stray dogs, which become its prey.”

They don’t need reserve forest areas to thrive as they have adapted to surviving in agricultural landscapes and every now and then stray into cities, attracted by easily available food.

Leopards are known to keep away from human beings as they don’t like humans. In this regard, the Forest Department should launch awareness campaigns and educate people on the measures to be taken in the event of a leopard being sighted in their vicinity.

Athreya explains, “This has been done in Mumbai, which frequently sees leopards in some of the suburbs adjoining the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. These ongoing efforts to educate people has, in fact, reduced man-animal conflict in the mega-city.”

Tuskers Outside the Wild

Wildlife experts say that with shrinking habitat and disappearance of elephant corridors in the regions surrounding Bengaluru, there have been frequent reports of sightings of these gentle giants on the outskirts of the city. There have been instances when these animals attracted by sugarcane, coconut and paddy, have turned into crop raiders and also attacked people.

Although elephants are known to live in herds comprising one or two dominant males, females, breeding mothers and young ones, a few wild elephants are known to traverse from Bannerghata ranges to Tumakuru every season in search of food, says a forest officer. Therefore, it is not unusual to see pachyderms criss-crossing and coming on to the Bannerghata-Anekal Road as it is their area. People therefore have to be careful and avoid elephants while using this road.

The Bannerghata Biological Park’s elephant safari has 19 elephants, including females. With the park surrounded by the National Park on both sides, wild tuskers do visit the safari now and then for a romantic interlude.

The Bannerghata National Park, which abounds the Safari Park on two sides, is part of an elephant corridor that connects both the Billigiri Rangana Betta and the Sathyamangala forest area. Despite solar fencing and elephant-proof trenching, incidents of man-animal conflict have been reported as these regions are close to their habitat.

Research Studies

According to recent research studies by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) India chapter, capture of leopards is not the solution as analysis has shown that their capture or removal were, in fact, associated with higher probabilities of leopard attacks on livestock and humans. The study has highlighted that resurgence of large carnivores in human landscapes now needs to be buttressed by management actions based on research that generates knowledge about their ecology.