New Delhi, Dec 10. The three-year-leopard, which had been 'staying' in the Yamuna Biodiversity park for about a month, was successfully captured on Saturday, with Delhi Forest Department officials expressing relief that this had avoided an ugly man-animal conflict like in the case of the Gurugram leopard which was last month beaten to death by villagers.
"We had been on a restless combing operation and happy that the leopard was finally rescued, before either the animal or any villagers were hurt by each other," Forest Department official V.B. Dasan told IANS.
The big cat, which was first spotted by a villager in the first week of November and by the forest officials in the third week, was apprehended in a joint operation conducted by Delhi Forest Department and Wildlife SOS and will be relocated or released to its natural habitat soon, an official said.
According to experts like Faiyaz A. Khudsar, the scientist in-charge of Yamuna Biodiversity, the leopard might have come through corridor along Yamuna from Kalesar National Park in Haryana.
On Saturday after being spotted by the villagers, the forest officials set up a trap cage and a veterinarian from the Delhi zoo tranquilised it with a dart gun. A team from Wildlife SOS reached the spot and took charge of the animal, which was transported to the National Zoological Park.
Delhi's Chief Wildlife Warden A.K Shukla said that the leopard was spotted near a small cultivation patch near the Yamuna in the park.
"We thought it best to shift the animal to the zoo, where the veterinarians can conduct the necessary medical examination to ensure that it is in good health," he said.
As per experts, the good prey density and natural habitat in the park must have held the leopard back from moving out for killing any cattle so far.
The biggest fear of the wildlife official was the leopard not being spooked by the villagers leading to man-animal conflict, ending the leopard's or any villager's life.
Over 337 leopards had died in India this year so far. The government figures estimated 6,566 to 9,181 leopards in tiger range states.
"Depletion of the leopard's natural prey base and habitat is forcing them to seek prey in the form of livestock and dogs, closer to human settlements. This often leads to human-leopard conflicts with brutal consequences," said Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder of Wildlife SOS.
Satyanarayan, who had rescued several leopards, bears, elephants along others, added that it is important to address the conflict mitigation and to encouraging people them to be more tolerant of wild leopards and animals in urban spaces.