SRINAGAR: Amid escalating reports of leopard sightings in urban areas of Kashmir, experts from the wildlife department here have shed light on the multifaceted factors contributing to these encounters, revealing that around 90 percent of such reports are deemed false upon investigation.

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Parvez Ahmad, Wildlife Warden of the Central Division Kashmir, emphasised that despite the abundance of reported leopard sightings on social media platforms, a substantial majority—90 percent—prove to be unfounded upon careful examination.

“It may not be correct to say that there is a spike in the presence of leopards in urban areas,” Ahmad stated. “Of the reports we receive, 90 percent turn out to be fake, and we take up the matter with the police against those involved in spreading false rumours about the presence of leopards.”

Speaking on the possible reasons for leopards venturing into urban areas, Ahmad noted that of the minor percentage where leopard presence is confirmed, the primary driving force is the search for food, as these animals move out of their natural habitat for sustenance.

According to Ahmad, a complex interplay of elements such as leftover food and open garbage disposal systems are attracting stray dogs, which in turn become prey for these majestic felines.

Addressing the proliferation of misinformation on social media regarding leopard sightings, Ahmad stressed that actions would be taken against those spreading rumours, urging the public to refrain from sharing unverified reports to prevent unnecessary panic and fear.

“In the Central Division, since I took over, about 10 percent of reported cases are confirmed to be authentic,” he said while underlining the importance of responsible reporting.

Elaborating on the reasons behind leopards venturing into urban areas, Ahmad highlighted the search for food as a primary driving force. He pointed out that dogs, being soft prey, are attracted to areas with poor waste management practices, inadvertently drawing leopards closer to human settlements.

He underscored the importance of maintaining clean surroundings, advocating for the closure of unattended structures and the cleaning of bushes in empty lands to deter leopards from seeking shelter in urban environments.

He advised that communities residing near forested regions, national parks, and protected areas take proactive measures to mitigate potential conflicts, such as securing garbage bins, refraining from feeding stray animals, and implementing community-driven conservation initiatives.

Meanwhile, some observers have attributed the surge in leopard sightings to rapid urbanisation and habitat loss, forcing these elusive predators to adapt to changing landscapes.

The presence of abundant garbage and leftover food inadvertently creates a secondary food source in the form of stray dogs, further enticing leopards into urban vicinities—(KNO)

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