Leopard sightings become more frequent

Kathmandu, September 11

Incidents of leopard sighting in the city areas have become a common occurrence in Kathmandu Valley of late.

Kathmandu residents have witnessed six incidents of leopards entering the city areas in the fiscal 2015/16. Only two months into the fiscal 2016/17, six more similar incidents were reported in the Valley.

According to the Central Zoo of Jawalakhel, altogether five such incidents were reported yesterday, on September 9 alone. “We found three cubs and a mother leopard in Sirutar-8, Bhaktapur and the locals of Thali informed us that there was a leopard in the area on the same day,” Radhakrishna Gharti, senior veterinarian at the Central Zoo told The Himalayan Times.

He added, “Before that, a leopard was killed on August 1 in Matatirtha.” Gharti further expressed worry over the phenomena. A veteran leopard catcher Gharti has the experience of catching dozens of leopards, treating and later releasing them back into their natural habitats.

He said the three new born cubs found in Sirutar of Bhaktapur yesterday indicated that the breeding environment in the leopard’s natural habitat may not be ideal due to several factors.

“This is the first known case in Nepal where any leopard gave birth in a concrete human settlement,” he said, adding, “But it is likely that the leopard carried the cubs after giving birth in the jungle.

This indicates that the breeding environment for animals is not safe in the jungles anymore and the leopard brought its cubs to the house to protect them from perceived predators.”

A team led by Gharti had gone to observe the condition of the leopard and its newborn cubs yesterday and have since warned the locals not to go near the leopard.

Locals had reported the authorities that a leopard had given birth to three cubs at a house belonging to Lalitjung Thapa in Sirutar-8 of Aanantalingeshwor Municipality in Bhaktapur last week.

Thapa had abandoned the house after it was damaged by the earthquakes last year. Although the mother leopard does not stay with the cubs the entire day, it keeps returning to feed the cubs several times, locals said.

In January, a male leopard had attacked an old woman in Kirtipur and another leopard had entered into the compound of a Kuleshwor-based private house in June. Similarly last year, a leopard was spotted lurking in New Baneshwor.

A data obtained from the central zoo show that six leopards enter the city area in the Kathmandu Valley on an average annually. But authorities and experts are still unsure why the leopards are leaving their natural home in favour of human settlements.

According to the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, no research has been conducted so far to establish the reason. Deputy Director General at the DNPWC Dr Maheshwor Dhakal said jungle encroachment had prompted the big cats to go on the loose.

Wildlife expert Dr Mukesh Kumar Chalise said significant decrease in prey and leopard-friendly habitats in the Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park could be blamed for leopards entering into settlements.

“Tall trees and greenery in the forests alone don’t ensure good habitat for leopards, as they also need shrubs and suitable prey,” said Dr Chalise, adding, “Lack of food in jungles has been forcing leopards to stray into city areas.”