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Thread: Leopards of Bera

  1. #1

    Default Leopards of Bera

    Dear All,
    I was recently in a small village called Bera in the Pali District of Rajasthan. The place is about 150 kms south of Udaipur and the topography is such that it is dotted with hills of the Aravalli range. Like in many other places in Rajasthan, the hills are populated with a fair no. of Leopards. Since this land does not belong to the forest, rather it being a revenue land, the law offers no legal protection to the resident leopards. The hills are devoid of any significant prey except for Peafowl and Monkeys and occasionally the Leopards come down the hills to pickup the stray dog, goat or a small calf form the nearby villages. The villagers being primarily nomadic goatherds, do take this loss seriously. Since the Leopard is not a part of any protected forest, the losses suffered by the goatherds are not reimbursed by the government. In the light of this situation retaliatory poisoning do take place and leopards do go missing.

    A resident of this village is Thakur Devi Singh Ranawat who is very fond of the resident leopards and along with his son roams the adjoining hills observing the leopards, keeping a photographic record, keeping a tab on movements of the herders (rajasthan has a very evident caste system in place, The thakur is like a local raja and feared and respected by the residents.). His visibility in these areas where there is no presence of any wildlife officials serves as a deterrent to these very poor people from taking action against the suffered losses. He does also compensate the occasional loss in his personal capacity. Looking at his work of the last 15 years, the rajasthan govt. has made him the Hony. Game Warden of Pali district.

    He also runs a home stay by the name of LEOPARDS LAIR, consisting of 10 rooms made on his farmhouse where he himself lives. His wife cooks for the guests, the house servants do the cleaning and serving and Thakur saab and his son drive the visitors to see the Leopards in the morning and evening safari.

    The morning safari starts at 4:30 Am when its not yet daybreak and we set out with high power flashlights to spot the twin green eyes of the leopards. After all the search for food in the night, the leopards usually bask in the sun at sunrise before retreating to the safety of the caves in the hills. Its at this time that most magnificent sights of Mother an cubs have been recorded. The relative absence of too much vegetation means that this activity happens in the open on the rocks. We were witness to one such Female named Zara by thakur saab and her two cubs who would be about 2 months old.

    Now I come to the part where i wanted your opinion. In the evening safari, A goat is tied out in the near vicinity of where sighting has been in the morning and we wait out about 50 yards away in jeeps waiting for a leopard to emerge and take the goat down. The goat is very well secured to discourage the leopard from dragging away the kill and the leopard feeds right in front of our eyes. I had mixed feelings about this. While on one hand it resulted in terrific Photo opportunities, on the other is the ethicalness of these photographs and the human intervention in providing food to a wild animal was in a way interfering with the ways of nature.

    Thakur saab had the following points :

    a) There are no prey in the hills, hence the Leopard is in any case dependent of food from a human source, it could be the baited Goat or the Goat of the poor Goatherd. By providing a Regular supply of Goats, the leopard is kept out of harms way and they do not risk lives by walking into villages and falling prey to poisoned carcasses.

    b) As a result of this assured source of food, the Leopardess Zara has made the hill a permanent residence and successfully raised one litter to adulthood and is currently raising another, the Cubs are 2 months old.

    c) No incident of leopards going missing has been reported for the last 4 years. He has been regularly tracking 14 leopards.

    d) No incidents of poisoning in the last 4 years, during this time about 25 goats have been compensated.

    e) Leopardess Zara, who is about 5 years old and raising her second litter has been fed 87 goats over a period of last 3 years.

    f) BBC film crew spent 2 weeks filming leopards in Bera. Only at that time a live goat was not tied (that classifies as bait ), but a goat carcass procured from the Butcher used to be laid out to facilitate filming.

    Of course, the Leopards are the only reason for people to go to Bera.

    My question to you :

    a) Of course baiting is inethical and Photographs taken under such circumstances should be classified under " Controlled situations". But taking a larger perspective of things, the precarious position of Leopards in our country, would you endorse this as a mechanism ?? Would you support the actions of Thakur saab in toto or would you suggest some mechanism by which the practice could become more ethical.

    After all its completely identical to the Lion Shows in GIR where a live buffalo was tied by a forest department officials for much of the 90s. It is also similar, if not identical to the Tiger shows in bandhavgarh, wherin a tiger is hemmed in by elephants to facilitate, viewing and photography.

    Please share your opinions on the above.

    Warm Regards

  2. #2
    Join Date


    Thanks for sharing the information in detail. It is surely a very difficult situation. I personally think, that the Thakur Saab is doing the best he can in his capacity, to conserve Leopards. It might not be the best way, but the situation as you have explained is very difficult with no natural prey base and the man-animal conflict.

    I think that killings should not be for Photography purposes only. That would be definately unethical.

    Another way can be to declare that area as a 'Reserve' so the Leopards can be safe, and if there are any killings of the domestic animals, the Forest Department can reimburse the villagers. That way posioning of the Leopards will also stop.

    In the longer run, increasing the prey base in the area will also help. Thanks for sharing this information and making all of us aware of the problems.
    Mrudul Godbole

  3. #3
    Join Date
    New Delhi


    Good job Dipankar! We would not have known about this place unless you told us.

    Baiting of wildlife has been going on since ages. Earlier it was to get them within the shooting range so that the hunters can shoot arrows or bullets to fell those unwary victims.

    Baiting is also used to capture animal that is diseased or injured and needs treatment

    A bait is also used to capture an animal for relocating to another area. In the plains of Africa this may not be an issue, however, in the dense forests of India, live baits have been used to tranquilise a tiger before relocating it. For eg. The female tigress from Bandhavgarh was attracted by a bait and then traquilised and shifted to Panna.

    Baiting has been used in the past for viewing/photographing and also for scientific studies of carnivores like tigers and lions. Dr Kailash Sankhala tied buffalo as bait in Sariska and Ranthambhore to observe them. Dr. George B. Schaller did it in Kanha to observe tigers. It was a normal practice carried over from the Shikar days (Sport hunting days).

    In Gir, baiting has been used as a part of census operations to estimate the number of lions.

    At times, bating is used to augment the food available to a particular species. In Daroji Bear Sanctuary, honey and jiggery are smeared on the rocks so that bears get their food supplement. I was told that earlier they used to provide “full meals” as we humans eat including khichdi etc. Augmenting the food supply with fruits like bananas and lacing the rocks with honey and jaggery may help when there is real short supply of fruits. However, the better solution is to plant large number of fruit bearing trees so that the bears get fruits. Also, it should be ensured that there are different species of fruit bearing trees so that every month the bears get some fruit or the other.

    At times a carnivore like a tiger injured due to fighting with another tiger or having picked up an injury while hunting etc, is provided food by tying live bait or by simply placing chunks of meat to help in overcoming its injury.
    However, there are dangers involved in baiting and it should only be done in extreme circumstances under scientific supervision.

    Baiting or feeding animals regularly brings in a change in their behaviour patterns. The animals tend to frequent the same locality due to baiting and don’t move as per their regular beat.

    Baiting makes the animals dependent on food and/or addicted to certain type of food. When the baiting is stopped for some reason for eg. After a scientific project has run its course, the animal is left behind expecting for its ration. Reputed Elephant expert Iian Douglas Hamilton has mentioned in his book “Living with Elephants” that one elephant which was used to food given by people, started ransacking the safari vehicles in search of food.

    Carnivores like tigers and lions shed their inhibition and approach much closer to humans. That often leads to disastrous consequences for both.
    The animals and birds can also contract disease from baiting. Using the bait site frequently, or use of diseased animals/carcasses/grains for birds etc may results in transmitting those to the animals. Proximity of humans to the animals in the bait site can also lead to the diseases getting transmitted.

    In the present case, if the poisoning of the kills has been stopped and can be traced to Thakur's efforts, then it is a good thing. However, there are many dimensions to this issue.

    The leopard has frugal food habits and can adapt to its environment and live on goats and mongrels. It will move from one patch of forest and/or human habitation to another to find its prey. It can survive on scarce vegetation. In this case, the Thakur's efforts in baiting has resulted in modification of its range and it has made the local hill as its base.

    My worry is about its cubs. What will they do? Since they are raised in a different scenario, their instincts would be shaped accordingly. The cubs would lose out on their survival skills due to the baiting.

    The Thakur has done his bit in saving a few leopards and stopping its killing. However, the larger issue of habitat and prey base remains. It may be too much to expect this gentleman to try to enhance the forest cover, accord protection and increase the prey base so that the leopards can be slowly weaned away from their goat diet.

    The forest department and State Government needs to make an effort to map the area and create a management plan of the landscape so that the leopards and other animals survive and thrive in the area. The action needs to be taken as soon as possible.

    Last but not least, I will not blame the Thakur. He tried to do his bit. People may say that he is making money out by arranging these live baits. Since I haven't seen it myself, I would tend to give the benefit of the doubt to him and would rather urge people to focus on improving the prey base and habitat around those villages so that leopards can survive.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Doha , Qatar

    Default Leopards of Bera

    A good point raised by Dipankar . This place called "Bera" is situated in Rajasthan can be approached by Pali-Sirohi highway by taking turn from Sumerpur. It can be approached from Pindwara. It is situated near Jawai Bandh (Jawai Dam).
    I visited this place & meet Mr. Devi Singh Thakur. He runs "Leopards Lair" the resort in which tourist will be come to stay only to see Leopards & Crocodials in the back waters of nearby dam. For both safaris are arranged by Mr. Devi Singh, ofcourse with a good fee.
    Many times goats as live bait will be allowed to eat by leopards or some times goat will be just used to lure leopard & when it comes out to the pleasure of tourists , in last minute goat will be pulled back by rope so that it can be used for next bait.
    As rightly told by Mr. Dipankar this area lacks prey base & green cover. The hills are covered by bushes & throny plants only.
    This area can be a good sanctuary with some efforts by Government. The hills should be planted with grass & trees which needs less water (since it is low rainfall area) can be raised .Some blue bulls (Nilgai) , Sambar & spotted deers can be relocated which will reduce dependency of leopards on bait & cattles from herdsman & making waterhole (by creating small check dams in hills) will transform this place as a ideal habitate for leopards.
    Help of Mr. Devisingh will be sought in this project & he will be happily ready to do so because along with Leopards he will be benefitting most.

  5. #5


    Well!! like Bera there is another place called SIYANA in rajasthan where the local thakur saab does the same thing!! more than blaming the Thakur i'l blame RAjasthan Forest dept!!!

  6. #6
    Join Date


    Sabyasachi has raised a very valid point. I am terrified at thinking about the future of the leopard cubs, when they grow old enough to be living independently. There might even be a scenario where these cubs are used to getting food easily at the same place where the mother used to feed them and if the thakur fails to show easy food to both cubs (which will then be adults), it will lead to a fight between the three animals. The consequence of this, I do not wish to think of.

    Also, if the govt. decides to announce the area as a reserve forest, the leopards that the thakur has been trackin for 4 years now would have got out of the habit of killing under natural conditions, so they might as well fail to kill at all!

    All said and done, I can feel the love the thakur feels for these felines. It is best that he reduces the frequency of placing these baits gradually, till when zara is able to kill enough by herself. The govt. can then be put under pressure to declare the area as a sanctuary.



  7. #7
    Join Date


    Very informative and thought provoking indeed. The issue is quite complex and difficult especially when one thinks about the effort required and vested interests to overcome in getting a protected area notification by the forest department for Bera. On the other hand the Thakur has done his bit to ensure protection and sustenance of the wild cats and reduce human animal conflict.

    But I agree, the path that the Thakur has taken will eventually be a grave interference in the wild ecosystem and balance of nature and the cubs may get over dependent on the baits.

    The only sustainable way for the future is to either keep pushing the forest department to provide protection status or for the area to be taken over and run privately for tourist purposes and use the money generated to expand afforestation, relocate nilgai, etc. to expand prey base and do what the forest department should be doing!

  8. #8
    Join Date


    Bio diversity rich forest area around Jawai dam in Pali district has been accorded conservation status by the Rajasthan wildlife board under the Wildlife protection act (1972). Details in the link below:

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