Rajasthan To Launch India's First Leopard Conservation Project
Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, under the recently passed Rajasthan State Budget 2017, has announced the allocation of seven crore rupees towards the launch of ‘Project Leopard’ in the state — India’s first leopard conservation project.
Photo: Aditya ‘Dicky’ Singh.
This decision comes as a breath of fresh relief to wildlife activists and conservationists alike who have been working tirelessly to mitigate the rising incidents of leopard-human conflict in the state.
Just a few days ago, the commuters of Jaipur city, Rajasthan, witnessed in awe the astonishing site of a female panther and her cub crossing the city’s busy Jawahar Lal Nehru road, at midnight. The road, leading to Jaipur international airport, was in a complete frenzy over the sighting of these majestic jungle cats.
However, as the state constantly finds itself embroiled in human-leopard conflicts, this incident came as no surprise. With the total tree cover in Rajasthan having been reduced to a meagre 2.42 per cent of the state's total land area, the jungle cats have nowhere to go. This has led to rising incidents of human-leopard conflicts, retaliatory killings by villagers who lose cattle and kin in leopard attacks and motor vehicle leopard deaths on roads that cut across forested areas.
While in 2010, 527 leopards were recorded in the state, in 2015 the leopard population dipped to 434. A study conducted by Wildlife Institute of India in 2015 revealed that Jaipur district alone had observed a 70-80 per cent decline in its leopard population.
Although Rajasthan has five protected forest reserves for panthers, leopards and tigers—Ranthambhore National Park, Sariska National Park, Sita Mata Sanctuary, Jhalana Park and Mukundra Tiger Reserve—leopards residing beyond these unprotected lands remain at risk.
Through ‘Project Leopard’ the government aims to develop protected areas in the state, which will serve as safe natural habitats for the leopards.
Apart from the leopard, the Great Indian Bustard also features in Rajasthan’s budget plans. The state government has decided to sanction Rs. 10 crore to develop grasslands for the birds.
Sources: Rajasthan Truths, The Indian Express