The news of panthers being seen near Udaipur is not uncommon these days. The beast was seen sitting in a pipe at the site in Pratapnagar Bypass where the new building of the administrative block of Maharana Pratap Agriculture College is under construction. Another one-year-old female panther was sited near a hut in Kaya village on the Ahmedabad road. Hitting by an unknown vehicle became the cause of the death of a partner that was found in Kewada ki Nal, near Udaipur. There are several other reports of animals and men being attacked by panthers and Panthers being killed cruelly.
There are certain things that everyone must know, about Panthers, that shall save them in case of any unfortunate incident.
HABITAT OF THE PANTHER
Panther belongs Genus Panthera that has three more species viz Tiger, (Panthera Tigris), Lion, (P. Leo) and Snow Leopard (P. Uncia).
At present, the major carnivore at the top of the food chain is Panther (Panther Paradus). Other vertebrates in habituating the surrounding area are the striped hyena, jungle cat, Indian fox, Indian wild boar, squirrels, and rats. The Panther can survive in a wide range of habitats. It can thrive well in the open country, rocky, scrubby and forested areas. It can do well in arid mountains country and broken hilly areas. It can thrive even in close proximity of human habitations.
PANTHERS IN UDAIPUR SANCTUARIES
It is interesting to find that the two sanctuaries near Udaipur that have the highest number of panthers; Kumbhalgarh and Sitamata. The area-wise figures of panthers in different areas in the year 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 are Udaipur Pradeshik (29,31,21 and 23)Udaipur Pradeshik Uttar (11,14,13 and 17) Jaisamand (11,10,11 and 12) Phulwari Ki Nal (21,19,18 and 21) Kumbhalgarh (88,85,88 and 95) Raoli Todgarh (25,28,33 and 35) Sitamata Sanctuary (34,34,38 and 40) Bassi (09,09,08 and 11) and Bhainsroadgarh (7,7,8 and 8). The number of panthers in ascending order as per the last wildlife census was Bhainsroadgarh (1) Jaisamand (11) Udaipur Pradeshik (13), Bassi (13) Udaipur Pradeshik Uttar (19) Phulwari ki Nal (20) Raoli Todgarh (35) Sitamata Sanctuary (43) and Khumbhalgarh (101). There are a big number of animals like bear, wild boar, chital, sambhar, chinkara, wolf, fox, wild cat, chousigha jackal and different kinds of birds. Kumbhalgarh has the largest number of panthers due to its extremely rich biodiversity.
The wildlife census is done on Buddha Purnima in May as there is a full moon on that night and animals can be seen clearly. Workers of the Forest Dept. keep a 24-hour watch and count panthers etc when they come to drink water. However, the census figures are not always hundred percent correct if an animal comes to drink water twice during the period it might be counted two times. A single panther might go to two places to drink water and be counted twice. Water collects at some places where workers are not posted and the animals there are not counted.
PANTHERS ENTERING THE CITY
As compared to this year, the number of Panthers entering the cities was bigger. Most incidents have occurred in Udaipur and Rajsamand districts and that too in populated parts near the forest. It was so in Udaipur urban area but there was no conflict with human beings. People were troubled by panthers in urban areas like Rajeev Gandhi Garden, MLSU Campus, Chitrakoot Nagar, near Doodh Talai and Dhikli area.
It is interesting to learn the nature of the panther. It is afraid of man and in normal circumstances does not attack a man. Except for a brief period during mating and when females are rearing their young ones, the panther lends an entirely solitary life, usually within a defined territory. Like other members of the cat family, it marks its territory with urine and by scratching the ground with its claws. The size of the territory varies from season to season, as well as the type of habitat and availability of food.
HOW THE PANTHER PREYS
The panther feeds on a variety of different animals including cattle, sheep, goat, langur, deer, antelope, hare as well as smaller mammals and birds. Normally hunting at dawn or dusk, it uses a combination of stealth and cunningness to catch its prey.
Sometimes it lies in silent ambush in the branch of a tree but more often it stalks its victims and waits for the right time to pounce on it. It kills either by sinking its teeth in the prey’s throat or by a well-aimed bite at the back of the head. It will often then carry its kill that may be as heavy as itself, high up into a tree. Here it stores the prey safely beyond the reach of scavengers such as hyenas and jackals. After a meal, it usually goes to a waterhole to drink.
SAFETY AGAINST THE PANTHER
The panther is afraid of man and does never attack a man on its own. There are several ways of safety against panther. So, when one sees a panther, one should not try to run away silently but make one’s presence felt by making some noise. While passing through a place where there is likely to be a panther, keep producing some sound. Avoid going near it, do not disturb it or throw stones at it. People should not try to surround it but let it go away. If it is hiding behind rocks or bushes, don’t try to go near it and search it. It is better to inform the team of Forest dept. And wait for it to arrive there. If people stop surrounding it in 99% cases there would be no problem. Keep open all the routes for it to return to the jungle. To make it run away, it is better to stand at a safe distance and beat drums or firecrackers. For people in rural areas, it is advisable not to tie sheep, goats and small animals in the open. Cut the bushes near the houses, so that the panther does not get the place to hide. Whether it is day or night, never leave children, especially those under 12, alone. They should never be naked as then the panther takes them to be just animal. Let them wear bright colored clothes. They should not be left alone in the jungle. Do not allow young children to take cattle for grazing. Keep the doors of houses closed at night. It is better not to leave waste material near houses as it attracts dogs and other animals that are attacked by the panther. It is not safe to try to free small animals that have been caught by a tiger as it would incite it to attack human beings.
WHY THE PANTHER COMES NEAR CITIES
It would be relevant to know why panthers come near the cities and begin to harm animals and men. The number of carnivorous animals such as rozda, sambhar, langur, wild boar is dwindling fast. These are the animals that the panther feeds on. Thus, the food chain has been disturbed by us. No wonder hungry panthers visit urban areas in search of food and attack small animals there. Another main problem is the scarcity of water sources for animals in the forest.
HOW THE PANTHER IS BEING KILLED
One main concern about panthers these days is that their number is decreasing fast. The reasons for this trend are not far to seek. Places such as Chirwa Ghat, Bilota, Koler, Negadia, Ghodaghati, Bandaria Magra, Padasali, Gadrola, Diwer, Chhapli, Sangawas and other places in Bhim tehsil have a good number of panthers, hyenas etc. Rajsamand is a big center of marble industry and there is traffic of heavy vehicles on the four-lane road and quite a few of them are overloaded. They are driven at speeds between 100 to 130 km per hour and in absence of radium indicators of proper warning about the presence of animals, quite a few Panthers and other animals get crushed. So, there is an urgent need to build eco ducts, underpasses etc and put up fencing on either side of the roads in such areas for the safety of animals. Man has started killing panthers brutally when they enter cities and take pride in doing so. There is a provision under Vanyajeev Sanrakshan Adhiniyam 1972 through which Forest dept. files FIR against those who kill a panther or abet others in doing so. Such persons can be sentenced up to seven-year imprisonment. On one hand, most people are not aware of it and on the other, it is seldom enforced by the authorities. The panther has become the prey of greedy ‘shikaris’ who sell parts of its body for heavy amounts.
IMPORTANCE OF SAVING THE PANTHER
Awareness has to be created among people about the importance of saving panthers. Farmers have now come to realize that by preying an animal like langurs, wild boar, blue bulls, deer, antelopes, Indian hare and porcupine that damage crops, it helps in controlling their numbers. Thus, the animal is a crop-friendly one since it controls a number of herbivores in the forest and agro-system, it is also an eco-friendly creature. In areas where leopards have been wiped out, herbivorous plants can cause damage to crops. Panther rich zone can also attract tourists. Thus, animals can open new avenues for earning income in forests and rural areas.