The Gurgaon Metropolitan Development Authority recently announced that a leopard park is likely to come up in the Aravallis near Gurgaon, Haryana. An impetus for this are the tense encounters between leopards and people. The plans include a 15 kilometre jungle trail and eco-tourism involving local residents.
I think this is a good idea. If done well, it addresses the need for the leopard’s pray base, reduces conflict, acknowledges the rich wildlife of the Aravallis and sets some precedence for protecting this ecosystem, vital to the survival of Delhi, Haryana and Rajasthan. Pulling off this feat is predicated on three key things.
First, a rigorous, science-based feasibility study that should determine if this should be a project at all. If the project is feasible, then scientists who understand leopards, the Aravalli ecology and the local topography and hydrology, must be key advisors.
Second, should the park not be feasible, other ideas to reduce tensions must be considered and rapidly implemented.
Third, eco-tourism must remain a secondary objective at all times, because the carrying capacity of any such green project is automatically limited due to considerations of the numbers of visitors and the noise, lights and footprint of tourism. A leopard park is simply not something like Mysuru’s Brindavan Gardens or Srinagar’s Nishat, stunning as they are. It should learn from the Rajgir Lion Safari how not to be.
We don’t know if the animal-human tensions will go away entirely with this idea. But done well, it will be a crucible of ideas for managing urban ecosystems.