MSc Students visit Mumbai field site

6 months, 1 week ago 0
Posted in: From WCS-India

Mumbai, December: The National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore offers a Masters in Conservation and Wildlife Biology. Sixteen of the students from the latest batch, including one from Nepal and another from Bangladesh, attended the field course on human wildlife relationships. Mumbai has been an interesting site to visit as it used to be a place with severe human leopard conflict, which has now given way to a good model of dealing with the presence of high density of leopards in an area of extremely high density of humans. The Forest Department initiated a project in 2011 which has changed the way people view the leopards of Mumbai and this has led to a drastic reduction in leopard attacks on people. Please see video for more details

On Day 1 the students visited a residential housing society where an awareness session was held by the ‘Mumbaikars for SGNP’ to sensitise people on the precautions they need to take to deal with leopards. They also visited the Aarey Milk Colony where they studied the issues of encroachment and met with the local group of volunteers who monitor the leopards of the area.

On Day 2, the students met the Park Director of Sanjay Gandhi National Park, followed by meetings with the DFO, the veterinarian, the RFO and members of the rescue team. All the complexities of Park management, handling the leopard emergencies, etc were discussed. They also had the opportunity to meet the APCCF WL as well as the RFO of SGNP and heard about the management issues they deal with (related to humans as well as leopards).

On Day 3, the students had a role playing session where two examples were played out –  real conflicts (elephant issue in N Bengal) and perceived conflicts (wolf issue in Norway) and the resolution of these conflicts was discussed. The role of the biologists was also discussed.

On Day 4, the students and members of the Project Waghoba team (of WCS India) had a small discussion about the definitions of the term “natural”, especially in the context of Mumbai leopards. What constitutes the leopard’s natural prey, what is natural behaviour with respect to what we see in Mumbai, as well as the term “Optimal Habitat”.

On the last Day 5, members of the Project Waghoba team gave presentations of their work to the students. A camera trap image of a resident leopard was shown to the students.

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