Uttarakhand forest officials have been caught by surprise after discovering that leopards are swimming across the river Ganga, which is as wide as 80m to 100m between Rishikesh and Haridwar. This came to light after the officials radio-collared two big cats.
The activity is part of the GIZ Indo-German Human Wildlife Conflict Mitigation Project that aims to radio-collar 15 leopards and elephants each active in the close vicinity of Haridwar, which will host the ‘Maha Kumbh’ next January. The project involves as many as 70 field staff from Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India and the Uttarakhand Forest Department.
“The idea is to study the habitat, location and behaviour of leopards and elephants amid growing cases of man-animal conflict in the region,” said chief wildlife warden JS Suhag. “We monitored that leopards are crossing Ganga in search of prey and that’s very strange.”
Experts believe the river usually doubles up as a barrier for big cats; however, this appears not to be the case, at least for leopards active around Haridwar.
The ‘Maha Kumbh’ is held every 12 years. In the last festival in 2010, Haridwar witnessed as many as 60–70 lakh people on a single day
However, the upcoming ‘Maha Kumbh’ will witness ‘restricted’ numbers of pilgrims due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Forest officials intend to complete the job of radio-collaring in the next five to six weeks. Over the last three weeks the team has radio-collared one elephant and two leopards. An official involved with the project said the idea behind launching it is to mitigate man-animal conflict by using different tools and an early warning response system.
Haridwar is close to the Rajaji Tiger Reserve. Animals often venture into human colonies. A tusker earlier killed two people on the outskirts of the city and was tranquilised later and housed in a rescue centre.
(With inputs from Sunil Navprabhat)