Presently, Uttar Pradesh houses a single animal rescue centre in Agra and that too, for bears and elephants only.
In a bid to protect its wildlife, Uttar Pradesh will construct new leopard rescue centres in the districts of Meerut, Chitrakoot, Etawah, Gorakhpur and Pilibhit, for the first time ever. These centres will not only care for the rescued leopards but also shelter other rescued animals that cannot be accommodated at the already overcrowded Lucknow and Kanpur zoos. This step would also provide better aid and accommodation for these animals.
Uttar Pradesh to scale up its animal relief & rescue infrastructure
Currently, Uttar Pradesh houses only one rescue centre in Agra and that too, for bears and elephants only. While this rescue infrastructure is backed by Lucknow and Kanpur Zoo, their diminishing capacity has created a need for establishing dedicated facilities. Consequently, the state and the forest department have decided to set up rescue centres and now, 5 such facilities will be constructed in Uttar Pradesh.
Each leopard rescue centre shall have jurisdiction over an area within a 100-km radius of its establishment. Further, as per reports, financial support will be extended to each centre with an earmarked sum of ₹5 crores. According to a senior forest official, "A decision was taken to set up the rescue centres in forest areas. The primary aim is to keep injured wildlife within their boundaries so that they can be safely released into the forests after undergoing treatment. Only those afflicted with permanent injuries and unable to hunt on their own, will be shifted to the zoos."
Veterinary staff & other facilities at rescue centres
Meerut's rescue centre will be established in Hastinapur, which borders the district of Bijnor. According to the statement of Meerut's Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), each centre will function as a shelter for rescue animals that provides treatment, has medicine storage facility, cages and other required equipment.
Further, the veterinary staff deployed in the rescue centres will be provided with accommodation in a residential facility. The proposed structural changes in the centres will be implemented, once approved by respective authorities. Following that, funding to implement those changes will be released by the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning (CAMPA), the DFO added.
Rescue centres are the need of the hour
Bijnor has a heavy population of leopards and each year, over a dozen leopard cubs are rescued in this region alone, during the cane harvesting season. DFO Bijnor, who has rescued more than 40 leopard cubs over the past three years, said, "A rescue centre is the need of the hour. We had sent a proposal for the same two years ago. Bijnor is known for a very large density of big cats and incidents of man-animal conflict are also high. A rescue centre will be a boon in the region."
Incidents of man-animal conflict, particularly involving leopards living in the cane fields and villagers in UP's Terai belt, have risen sharply in recent times. Rescue centres will allay this conflict and help in making our environment a more inclusive space by moving away from anthropocentrism, one step at a time.