Pune: 233 Villages Declared ‘Potential Leopard Disaster-Prone Areas’ By District Collector

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Reported by Tikam Shekhawat & Varad Bhatkhande

Junnar/Pune, 27th June 2024: Pune District Collector Dr Suhas Diwase has declared 233 villages in Junnar, Ambegaon, Shirur, and Khed talukas as ‘Potential Leopard Disaster-Prone Areas’ due to incidents of human injuries and deaths over the past 5 years in the Junnar Forest Division. The order was passed under relevant sections of the Disaster Management Act of 2005.

Junnar, Ambegaon, Khed, and Shirur talukas, located in the northern part of Pune district, are part of the Junnar Forest Division, which is divided into seven forest ranges: Junnar, Otur, Manchar, Bodegaon, Khed, Chakan, and Shirur. This area is predominantly hilly and features several irrigation projects by the Irrigation Department of the Government of Maharashtra.

Irrigation facilities have increased mainly due to medium and small projects like Dimbhe, Manikdoh, Pimpalgaon Joga, Badan, Chilhewadi, and Chasakaman Dams under the Ghod and Kukadi projects. The availability of water has led to the abundant cultivation of long-term horticultural crops such as sugarcane, banana, grape, and pomegranate. These perennial crops provide good shelter and water sources for leopards.

Agricultural development has also led to an increase in human presence with domesticated animals in farm dwellings, making these animals easily available as food for leopards. As a result, leopard habitats have been established in these horticultural areas, primarily in sugarcane fields. This has resulted in an increase in human-leopard conflicts in this forest division over the past 23 years.

According to a study conducted by the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, the population density of leopards in the Junnar Forest Division is 6 to 7 leopards per 100 sq km. Considering the attacks on humans and livestock, the total number of leopards in Junnar, Ambegaon, Khed, and Shirur talukas is estimated to be approximately 400 to 450. In the past 5 years, there have been 40 serious injuries and 16 deaths in the Junnar Forest Division due to leopard attacks.

The increase in leopard attacks on humans has turned this area into a disaster zone for human-leopard conflict. Hence, the area has been officially declared a “Potential Leopard Disaster-Prone Area” in light of the injuries and deaths caused by leopard attacks.