Saturday, 5 March 2016

Predators in the city

Predators in the city

Kathmandu valley is surrounded by hills and jungles that endure rich biodiversity and wildlife habitat. The forest-cover are mostly of deciduous with some pine forests on some southern facing hilly terrains. The wildlife of these forests are declining due to expansion and encroachment activities of the city, and thus gradual degradation of the natural habitat. One such predator prowl these forest which is adapting to their best among all others in the human-dominated landscape. This silent predator sneaks around when the city is asleep, taking away any animals that stray around in the city.

An inhabitant of the city happened to have his pet lost one night. Some furs trapped in the house’s fence were seen later, that was used for genetic test. The test revealed the fur to be highly related to Panthera pardus. Leopards prowl these sub-urbs of Kathmandu valley. Due to the overexploitation of wildlife habitat, the wild prey base on which these felines survive have declined substantially. On the other hand, domestic animals such as dogs, cattle etc. without any responsible human owner are straying around in the city and they are increasing which is driving the big cats of the forest towards the city. Often times, these instances are resulting in the human leopard conflict in recent years more frequently. More and more reports of lost pets are coming up in social medias these days from various places around the valley, yet people are unaware of the actual convict.

The leopards are the largest predator on the hilly terrains of Nepal, within where the capital city Kathmandu also lies. In recent years, the cases of human and leopard conflict situation are occurring very often in different parts of the Kathmandu valley encompassing three districts: Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur. Due to urbanization and developmental activities, the expanding city is pushing the sub-urbs into the edges of the natural habitat. On the northern and north-western edges of the valley, there lies a protected Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park. The southern edge is covered by pristine Godavari/Phulchoki Mountain Forest. While most of the southern and western ridge is covered by very steep and dense montane forests of Chandragiri range. A small parts of eastern ridge are spread over the hills of Nagarkot, Changunarayan and Sankhu. The main city is at least ~15km inside from the circumference of the hill ranges around the valley. But the urbanization is rapidly spreading beyond the sub-urbs of the valley, and thus threatening the natural habitats that surround the cities. As a result, wildlife that thrives in those habitat is having to pay the price.

There have been very poor assessment study on the density of different wildlife surviving in these forests. And the conflict cases are regularly being occurring. On hiking trips into some of these forests almost always lead to the encounters of numerous carnivore scats, potentially also of leopards. But it is really not studied that what these leopards have been feeding on, and moreover how many leopards are estimated to be there, as well as for what is the current carrying capacity of these degrading forests. The leopards are believed to come into the settlements mainly in search of potential prey. This lets us think that the natural prey animals of these big cats have declined in the forests, which is why these feline predator are now on the look for a new urban preys to thrive in this disturbed environment. Leopards are known to adapt very well in very disturbed terrains, and is also the main reason why these cats are among the most conflict wild animals.

In order for placing a proper mitigation measures, a proper and serious scientific study is highly required, while also not forgetting that the implementation of these strategies are also needed to generate the result. The movement and behavior of these predators need to be closely monitored using technologies that allow us to do so. There needs to be satisfactory level of awareness activities among the city dwellers about the conflict mitigating solutions. The concerned stakeholders need to maintain their active profile and support for carrying out these important activities in order to assure its implementation success. The rapid response team has to be localized in more than one place so that nothing become regretful just because of time difference.

When everything is in place, it is still yet not certain that the things will work out as planned. We can imagine how it could get when nothing is in place and unplanned. Saving leopards will save many other walks of wildlife that are thriving in those forests. Preserving the wilderness and letting them be where they have always belonged is going to help our generations itself in the long run. Just getting to know that these nature’s gift are roaming around in their natural habitat makes everyone feel overwhelmed, and hence we all should play our part in conserving the beauty that is ever eternal. The nature should be left to be what it is always meant to be and never should be taken for granted if we are to survive under its warm cover and not under her dark influence that she is capable of if ever gone against her.


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