By Archana Sharma
Jaipur, Jan 7 (SocialNews.XYZ) Rajasthan and leopard safaris seem to have become synonymous to each other as the desert state accommodates many cities which have gained credence across the world for their distinguished feature in terms of leopard safaris.
For instance, Jaipur has become the only city in the country with two leopard reserves offering safaris, namely, Jhalana and Aamagarh.
While the state capital is drawing attention with man-animal conflict as the western and the southern boundary of the Jhalana forest share thick suburbs of Jaipur City, and the eastern boundary has villages and some new settlements, there is yet another place in the desert state where leopards cohabit with the villagers and other domesticated animals with minimal man-animal conflict.
Situated about halfway between Mumbai and New Delhi, this region of Jawai has been rising to fame as it has one of the largest concentration of wild leopards in the world.
This small municipality in Rajasthan traces its roots back to the days of the maharajas. But what makes Jawai unique is that the leopards cohabit with the villagers and other domesticated animals with minimal man-animal conflict.
"The leopards have been here since centuries staying in these hills. However, it is us, humans who have encroached on their land," says Pushpendra Singh Ranawat, whose family settled here generations ago as custodians of the forests upon invitation from the then Maharaja of Udaipur.
Talking to IANS, he says, "Jawai is famous for being the only place in world in which human habitat is so close to that of leopard, and there is no conflict.
"The lava rocks are like rooms for leopards here, these are inside hills where leopard feels safe to stay. However in other places, leopards stay in jungle which is an open area and they fear that humans can walk in and attack them which causes the man-animal conflict."
When leopards enter caves, it is confident that humans will not enter caves, which is not the case in other safaris.
"Villagers here know that they need to give space to leopards for they have equal rights too to stay here," he says.
However, expressing concern, he said that things have started changing. "While officials are busy in showing bedazzling facts that are alluring tourists and are fake, nobody is showing the real fact that Jawai is under threat. Like-minded people are not coming here but DJ party properties are coming in. Administration should understand that such parties should not be allowed in Jawai. People are getting NOC to make property right in front of leopard caves which will increase man animal conflict."
Ranawat adds, "Encroachment is increasing in this place, wildlife was seen blooming on grazing land and revenue land, now people are coming in from other places, and have started farming on grazing land, so there is no space left for wildlife. Revenue land and grazing needs to be preserved," he said in a choking voice fearing that Jawai might lose its identity for what it is known for if timely attention is not given to the present challenges.