Man vs wild: City roads, farms and homes creep into the wild
A 23-year-old man, identified as Anowar Ali, who was injured in a leopard attack here on Sunday, died at the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital on Thursday.
Ali was seriously injured as he fought with a leopard that came down from neighbouring hills into Dhirenpara, went berserk and injured four persons.
Ali isn’t the only person to be attacked by wild animals according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). Man-animal conflicts in 2014 have taken 74 lives and injured more than 408 persons in Assam of which, 8 deaths and 35 injuries were from the city. In the city, it is inflicted mostly by leopards and elephants.
Guwahati, surrounded by forests and hills, has about 300-400 attacks by wild animals every year. The Principal Chief Conservator of Forest’s office (PCCF) said that it is caused due to rampant encroachment and deforestation of the animal habitats due to which they are bound to enter the city.
“It isn’t the animals who are coming down to our city, but us, who have encroached into their habitat. With massive encroachments going on in the hills, hill cutting and deforestation, the animals are facing loss of habitat. We cannot change the natural habitat of the animals,” Narayan Mahanta, Public Relations Officer of PCCF said.
According to a census conducted by the Wildlife Trust of India, all the 18 hills in and around the city have feline population. Guwahati wildlife under the forest department includes Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary that stretches from Khanapara bordering Meghalaya and Bonda area of South Guwahati, Deepor Beel Sanctuary in the east of Guwahati, Narakashur Hill and the hilly areas of Dhirenpara, and Chandmari.
Elephants, however, enter the city from Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary and from Rani, Thoroseal, and Tawashe in Kamrup District.
Unplanned expansion of city fuelling man-animal conflict
Wildlife experts are of the opinion that had the city been planned properly keeping in mind the natural habitats of the animals, the conflicts could have been avoided.
“Guwahati grew arbitrarily ignoring the animal routes and their natural habitats. It is not yet late to control the leopards from coming down to the city, but the city will have to face the wrath of elephants,” said Udayan Borthakur, head of wildlife genetics in Aaranyak, a wildlife NGO.
“In the feline family, leopard is a genera species which means that it can adapt to the changing habitat. These animals have the tendency to take the maximum advantage of the environment. So, a leopard will not only raid the city if it has lack of food in winter, but will also attack cattle in the city if it finds them as easier prey than what it gets in the forest. So, with lesser encroachment and controlled exposure of animals in and around its habitat, we can control the feline attacks,” he said.
However, regarding the elephants, another wildlife expert, Parimal Bhattacharya of WTI said, “Elephants travel in herds from one place to another and it has a definite route. It will destroy if anything is built on their routes. If the city can clear out those areas for the elephant’s movement, then the problem can be contained to a great extent. I admit it is easier said than done, but lives can be saved if done so.”
Borthakur, however said, that the plundering of ripe paddy fields around the city cannot be stopped.
“However, there should have been a proper contingency plan in place so that the forest department can quickly respond and contain the situation before loss of human lives,” Borthakur added.
Plagued by lack of human resources and modern weaponries, the forest department is struggling to provide an immediate response to man-animal conflicts.
Back in 2012, the Guwahati wildlife divisional office had formed a quick response team and had started a helpline number to deal with cases of man-animal conflict cases.
The response team was supposed to be equipped with tranquiliser guns, stunners and other equipment to not only rescue, but also monitor the animal activities in and around the city. But five years later, the helpline remains defunct due to lack of man power.
- Anowar Ali was seriously injured as he fought with a leopard which came down from neighbouring hills into Dhirenpara, went berserk and injured four persons
- Guwahati, surrounded by forests and hills, has about 300-400 attacks by wild animals every year
- Man-animal conflicts in 2014 had taken 74 lives and injured more than 408 persons in Assam of which, 8 deaths and 35 injuries were from the city. In the city, it is inflicted mostly by leopards and elephants.
- The helpline number started by Guwahati wildlife divisional office to deal with man-animal conflict cases remains defunct.