Scientists are trying to redesign the Yamuna Biodiversity Park so that it could be turned into a permanent wildlife refuge, instead of acting as ‘trap’ from where animals, that have taken refuge in it, could be captured and sent back to the wild, as was done in the case of a leopard recently.
The redesigning plan includes building a 75-metre wide animal bridge – the first of its kind in India - over Jagatpur-Pushta road which animals can access while moving from Phase-II to Phase-I, installing a 12-feet high double layered fence along the park boundary with special features to prevent leopards from straying into villages and developing animal corridors along the bank of River Yamuna.
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“We are planning to add some new features to the 457-acre park with fencing and animal corridors. While on one hand the park would attract more wildlife including leopards and become a safe haven for them, on the other hand we have to ensure the animals do not pose any threat to the people living in the park’s fringes” said CR Babu Professor emeritus of Centre for Management of Degraded Ecosystems.
In November 2016, a full-grown male leopard was spotted in the park for the first time. Experts believe that it came from Kalesar National Park in Haryana. The animal was, however, captured and released into the wild, as the government was apprehensive that it could stray into nearby villages and attack people.
The decision drew flak from several quarters. Wildlife experts claimed that the park acted as a ‘trap’ and not a refuge for the leopard.
“We have already sent a proposal to the Delhi Developing Authority for installing the fence and developing the animal bridge. If the bridge is built it would be the first such animal bridge in India. DDA planners are working on them and the designs are being finalised,” said Faiyaz A Khudsar scientist in-charge of the park.
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The animal bridge would connect the two phases of the park and ensure that animals are not killed in road accidents while crossing the Pushta Road. It would have greenery and trees on top to provide an ideal habitat for the animals.
While barbed wire would comprise the inner circle of the boundary fencing, a chain-linked fence would form the outer circle. The fence-poles would end in a V-shape the inner arm of which would have drooping structures so that even if a leopard manages to climb the pole, it won’t be able to cross it.
The 4-km long fence would be put up in phase-II which has the River Yamuna on one side. The river side would be kept open so that leopards can enter the park. Animal corridors would be developed along the river to attract more animals. Only the sides which have human settlements would be fenced.
“The intention is good but this would hardly solve the problem. Unless they put up a fence on all sides the leopard would find a way out. And if the entire boundary is fenced leopards won’t be able to enter the park. Secondly leopards are good climbers and could jump from one tree to another and ultimately manage to come out of the boundary. Then what do you do? Cut the trees?” said Vidya Athreya a wildlife biologist working on leopards.