I take a deep breath when my alert system triggers. Usually it gives information about poaching and trafficking incidents involving leopard but all too often of late it has been about human tragedy where people have been killed by the big cat. Last night a little girl, 18 months old, was playing in her front yard when she taken by a leopard, the 18th victim in neighboring Uttarakhand this year. I’m not going into more details of the death, out of respect for loved ones of victims I very rarely publish cases. They are incredibly traumatic events, especially when children are involved and having attended many cases, I have too many memories. The uncontrollable sobbing of a grandmother in my arms after she had lost her little grandson is something that comes back to me often.
Six alleged man-eater leopards have been shot in recent months in Uttarakhand alone with shoot to kill events also in other States and in Nepal. There are all sorts of reasons why attacks spike, I’m going into more detail on that in an update soon but I’m hell bent on improving early warning systems, we’ve proven they do work but it requires good communication within communities and with reporting to agencies about leopard movement something which is all too often lacking, that costs lives,
Another deep concern is the lack of understanding about big cat behaviour. It is important not to generalize about leopards and tigers as all individuals have their own characteristics but there are certain behaviour traits which if understood can also prevent loss of life. This education and awareness can be frustrating because there are people who ignore it, I have a list of tragic results of that.
This is an ongoing issue, the human-leopard interface is having too much death on both sides. Further tech advances, a large chunk of my day goes into this, involving machine learning and artificial intelligence are being tested right now in the field. Human behaviour is the constant variable however and very sadly, little children are innocent victims along with the leopards themselves.
Update 27 July 2021:
Re the post yesterday, the leopard was shot dead, the seventh in the State this year. There’s no doubt we’re past a tipping point in this dynamic, I’ll talk more about this next month but the trajectory isn’t good. As mentioned, there are solutions, the keys are the resources and will to implement them.