Phantom of Kathmandu
Chandragiri landscape is a hilly range covering most of south-western ridge of Kathmandu valley. The hills are preserved by community forestry management, and are full of dense lush green hill forests. This landscape elevates from around 1500m asl to above 2500m asl with varying degree of vegetation types along the altitudinal gradients. It is an important biodiversity area, but not much of it has been studied in detail.
Leopards are largest wild carnivore and on top of the food chain in this landscape. They share their habitat throughout the landscape with humans along villages mostly in fringes and base of the hill range. Barking deer, wild boar, rhesus and assamese macaques could form the main prey base for leopards in this landscape. Stray or feral dogs roaming freely along the human settlements could also form one of the main urban prey options for leopards. Other sympatric carnivores include leopard cat, jungle cat, large indian civet, masked palm civet and golden jackal.
The indirect signs like scats, pugmarks and scratch marks of leopards are observed very often in the jungles of this landscape. One day it so happened that I even felt a very fresh yet pungent smell of a spray or urine mark of leopard while walking a trail under canopy of the jungle. I felt the leopard could have been very near but never did I see it then. There are cases of leopards in conflict with people in and around the human settlements in the landscape. Settlement areas like Kirtipur, Matatirtha, Pharping, Chalnakhel are some of the regions around this landscape where leopards sneak into, mainly in search of domestic prey such as goats, stray cattle, pet animals and stray dogs. Since Jan 2016 to Feb 2017, two leopards have been caught at two different occasions from local houses in Kirtipur and were released elsewhere in natural habitat; one leopard got killed in a man leopard conflict in Matatirtha; while another leopard died of an unidentified cause in Chalnakhel. This makes at least four leopards to have been removed from the area in just about one year time. We don’t know how many leopards still prowl this landscape, but it may not be long that they get to survive many generations to come.
leopard captured after tranquilized in Kirtipur (Jan 2016).
Photo source: himalayan times
leopard rescued after tranquilized by Radha K Gharti, senior
vet of zoo and kathmandu's professional leopard catcher
(Feb 2017). Photo source: nepalireporter.com