The intrusion of leopard into the residential areas of Jaipur is no longer uncommon now as these wild beasts are often making their way into densely populated localities like Malviya Nagar, Gandhi Nagar and parts of Jawahar Nagar in the Rajasthan capital.
A few months ago, the forest officials had to chase out a male leopard that had stepped into the premises of Maharaja Sawai Man Singh Vidyalaya, set up by former princess Gayatri Devi.
According to forest officials, the wild animal had probably spent the night searching for street dogs (for food), and forgot to return to the forest during the day.
While the morning assembly was underway, suddenly a leopard was seen standing outside the Principal’s office!
Chaos erupted with outcries of — “save us”, the “confused” animal moved on to Reserve Bank of India premises. In an attempt to tranquilize it, forest officials had to be on their heels for almost half a day.
Such incidents, hair raising as they happen to be for citizens, have by now become a regular feature in Jaipur. The success of Jhalana Leopard Reserve is believed to be one of the reasons.
Former chief minister Vasundhara Raje, had declared Jhalana Leopard Reserve as an exclusive new safari in a dry-deciduous forest on the eastern fringe of city of Jaipur during her tenure.
She had received accolades as leopards had hardly received such an exclusive domain across India.
However, the forest officials now say that the former Chief Minister prefers to avoid any response, mentioning that she is not in power.
Meanwhile, the forest officials are clueless over the population explosion of this predator. Initially, they estimated their number to be10, about six years ago, living in an area of nearly 22 sq. km.
According to their estimation, the number will increase to 35 to 40 by January 2022.
One source pointed out that there were 60 leopards across Jaipur’s landscape, ranging from Jhalana to Kukas-Chandwaji along the road to Delhi.
Jhalana and adjoining forest patches are cut off by highways, residential localities and other anthropogenic impact. Can this forest belt sustain such a number of Leopards? Has any carrying-capacity of predators and prey base been carried out by authorities? Is sufficient natural prey base available at Jhalana and other adjoining forest belts? The authorities smile off at such questions. They are found busy facilitating jeep safaris for visitors who now line up in advance for leopard-sightings. So close to Jaipur, such a wildlife encounter is stated to be a rare feat, they say.
The in-charge of safari, on condition of remaining anonymous, stated that a leopard would need a prey-animal twice a fortnight, if not per week.
So, around 40 of them would require a few thousand animals per year. He admitted shortage of prey-base in this forest. Since deer are not in good numbers, the leopard has to thrive upon eggs of peacocks, catching peahens, and preying upon partridges.
It has also been reported surviving on rodents, which are in abundance.
Forest officials say it is not easy for a leopard to pounce upon monkeys. Therefore, this predator often ends up remaining hungry. At the fall of night, it would enter residential colonies in search of street dogs, thereby endangering lives of human beings.
A woman, last month, found the animal on the terrace of her home in Malviya Nagar!