Open wells around forests have caused the deaths of around 1,500 animals – including leopards, jackals, civets, jungle cats, wolves and hyenas.
Conservation group Wildlife SOS’s data states there were eight cases where leopards fell into wells along the Sahyadri range in 2016. An online petition has been started by the group for asking the district collector, Pune to get the wells covered or fenced around, for protecting the animals, as Hindustan Times reported.
Buffer areas, those which transition from forest to human habitable area have these uncovered wells. As animals compete for prey, territory and water sources, they need to venture to the precarious territories, which risks them to fall into wells.
The issue cannot be taken lightly. It is not just leopards, a species protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, that are vulnerable, but also several other species that may fall in accidentally, with potentially fatal results.Geeta Seshamani, co-founder, Wildlife SOS
Leopards become unnecessary victims, as wildlife conservationists stress the seriousness of the matter.
There is an urgent need to cover the wells, especially the ones that are at the periphery of human habitations, where leopards could be present. Construction of safety walls around these wells is also a viable alternative.Ajay Deshmukh, Senior Veterinary Officer, Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre
Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre currently houses 32 leopards, many of whom have been rescued from wells. The animals cannot be released into the wild as they can’t fend for themselves due to injuries or age.
Forest department officials confirm this is an issue they have been faced with for the last 20 years.
The village eco-development committee – participation of villagers in joint protection measures, patrolling, anti-poaching activities – for Pune region, which has 13 villages close to forest areas, needs to invest the money earned from wildlife sanctuaries to build fences and walls for these wells. The forest department will support them in this endeavour.KP Singh, Chief Conservator of Forest, Pune Division
An official from the Pune Forest Department has said that they have not received a complaint from the NGO and that they can only be answerable for constructing fences on government lands, not on private property.