Big cat sniffs freedom
By Express News Service - BHUBANESWAR
09th August 2012 11:30 AM
The leopard, captured from Sonepur about a month ago, went back into the wild in Rairakhol Forest Division in the small hours of Wednesday. The adult cat which was set free in Badmal reserve forest under Mochibahal of Sambalpur’s Rairakhol disappeared into the dense forests at around 5.15 am.
The action taken by the Forest and Environment Department was swift, probably the swiftest, even as concerns had been raised over the probable consequences.
On Tuesday afternoon, Forest and Environment Minister Bijayshree Routray had a meeting with Chief Wildlife Warden Janardan Dibakar Sharma and by 6 pm, the latter had issued an order to the Director of Nandankanan Zoological Park to release the big cat so that it can be shifted to Rairakhol and freed.
Between 9 pm and 10 pm, the leopard had been moved out with Assistant Conservator of Forests who escort it all the way to Rairakhol where the officials had been asked about a release point.
The animal reached Sambalpur in the wee hours and a team, braving rains and swelling river went to the spot in Badmal reserve forest and set the leopard free.
The site of release was apparently decided at Bhubaneswar itself and accordingly instructions were issued.
Though the guidelines of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (M0EF) are clear about it, the State Government still does not have a protocol in place. The MoEF prescribes that sufficient groundwork must precede any release.
It was not certain if the Department studied why the leopard strayed from its habitat. Was it for natural reasons such as territorial conflicts, loss of habitat and prey base of any individual incident? “Similar background study must have been done for the site of its release so that the effort does not go waste and the animal finds the new site habitable lest the issues of conflict may actually compound,” said sources.
While the four-hour decision to release the leopard opens a new chapter in wildlife conservation in the State, the Department could invite serious flak if it backfires for any reason.
Interestingly, the Department did partially accept the recommendations of the Technical Committee of Nandankanan. The four-member panel had okayed the health of the large cat for release after examining its treatment details but had also suggested that the leopard be housed in the Zoo for breeding purposes.
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