Mumbai’s unique distinction of having a national park in the middle of an urban settlement has made it part of a four-city global study. The project, urban national parks in emerging countries, also includes Cape Town, Nairobi and Rio de Janeiro and is being conducted by international non-profit organisation Urban Protected Areas Network.
dna caught up with Dr Estienne Rodary, a researcher at the French Research Institute for Development and UNPEC project head for Cape town, on his Mumbai visit to study the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP).
“There must be around 90 city national parks around the globe, but we chose Mumbai due to its unique demographics and a sprawling national park that greatly influences the lives of the people living close to it through its man-leopard conflicts,” said Rodary, who also feels there is limited connect between people and the park.
Spanning over 103 sq kms, SGNP is not only rich in flora and fauna but also home to a number of leopards and indigenous tribal settlements or padas. The spate of leopard attacks on tribals and slum dwellers had increased last year as it did at periodic intervals the past decade.
Rodary said the primary reason for man-animal conflict is improper waste management.
“Leopards are territorial creatures. Their movement is flexible and based on availability of prey.”
Rodary said Mumbai has one of the highest densities of leopards living very close to a human settlement. Once a leopard realises that dogs and rodents (attracted by garbage) make for easy prey, it moves closer to the city. According to a recent study, dogs comprised 47% of the source of food for SGNP’s big cats.
Another problem highlighted by the researcher was translocation of leopards from other places to SGNP. Rodary said, “In such a case, a new animal tries to find a new territory for himself and can get used to easier prey on the fringes of the park and outside it.”
The scientist, who will leave the city on January 25, said the research is likely to be concluded next year, following which a book will be published in 2016. It will compare the management and governing policies of these four city forests.