This is because the forest cover in the Aravalli region of Haryana, which comprises Gurugram, Faridabad and Nuh districts, has sharply diminished as a result of illegal encroachments, an enormous amount of illegal mining and agricultural conversions.
Another region why the leopards are frequently moving into human settlements is the lack of availability of natural food and water resources in their natural habitat. As a result, the leopard has nowhere to go.
Several spots in the forest have little food for the leopards which has forced them closer to urban habitation, triggering a vicious cycle of man-leopard conflict.
Around human populations, the leopard, now hungry and desperate, lives by preying on stray dogs, goats and small livestock. As the sun sets, it moves towards human settlements to find food. Dogs and goats have favoured targets. This is when it encounters man, and if detected, is chased, battered by sticks and stones and grievously injured or killed.
In the past years, more than 64 leopards were spotted in Gurugram and its nearby areas, testimony to the worsening man-animal conflict and the extent of illegal mining and construction in the area.
In one major incident, a leopard entered the Maruti Suzuki plant in Manesar in 2017. It was rescued by forest department officials after 35 hours. The animal was again witnessed in October 2022 in the same plant.
A leopard was also seen in September 2022 in DLF residential society with forced the authority to issue alerts to the residents, however, the big cat returned to the forest.
In 2017, a three-year-old leopard was beaten to death by the villagers of Mandawar after the animal strayed into the village.
Dhansingh Numberdar, of Mandawar village, the leopard most likely strayed into the area looking for food and water.
People also tend to kill the animals that have ventured into their territory for fear of losing their lives.
The villagers kill the leopard because they did not know any other way to deal with a wild animal, he said.
However, the Gurugram district administration and forest department have made arrangements for water resources under the corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes. The department has also created a wildlife corridor in the Aravalli reason so that animals roam around and man-animal conflicts could be avoided.
According to M.S. Malik, the principal chief conservative officer of the Forest Department, the department has constructed eight to ten forest posts at different places in the Aravalli mountain range in the Gurugram district citing leopards were seen regularly. Several forest guards have also been posted to keep a close watch on any kind of illegal activities or encroachment in the Forest area.
Besides forest posts in Aravalli, the department has constructed makeshift posts at Aravalli Retreat, Raisina Village, Manesar, Gwal Pahadi, Sehrawan, Bhondsi Gairatpur bas, Kasan, Mandawar, Manger and Damdama areas. These places are known for a high population of leopards.
“To protect animals and stop them from entering cities, the department has the process of filling up water pits in the Aravallis. Also, we have installed warning boards on roads passing through the forest area to avoid untoward incidences. We have also cleared the ways for animals so that they can move anywhere in the forest without crossing roads,” Malik said.
According to environmentalists, the illegal encroachment of the Aravallis started mostly around the 1980s when the concept of privatisation of land rolled in. In 1992 in Gurugram Ansal realtors developed farmhouses at Aravalli Retreat which is located in the middle Aravalli forest covers.
“Humans are encroaching into Aravalli and nearly 25% of the Aravalli range has already been destroyed due to mining. It is because of poor urban planning that wildlife is coming out into the open. Illegal construction in the region on rampant, and animals coming out into human habitations is a result of years of encroachment and illegal construction in the Aravallis,” said Neelam Ahluwalia, Founder member of the Aravalli Bachao Citizen Movement.
The master plan 2021, formulated by the National Capital Region Planning Committee, declared 60,000 hectares of the Aravalli as forest, of which only 0.5 per cent can be used for recreational activities. According to Sections 4 and 5 of the Punjab Land Preservation Act was developed in 1984, no land in the forest can be used for construction as it is to be preserved.
“The government is not taking any steps to protect the wildlife. The Aravallis drying up in the summer heat, wild animals are venturing into human habitations in search of water. The government needs to work on the animal’s requirements, especially the water resources. They need to build up huge water pits and arrangements of foods for animals if wanted to protect and stop man-animal conflicts,” Tarun Rai, a city-based environmentalist said.
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