Wildlife & Biodiversity

COVID-19 lockdown: Wild animals freely roam Bihar’s forests and fields

Leopards, nilgai and tigers, all have appeared in human-dominated areas

By C K Manoj
Published: Thursday 02 April 2020
The leopard caught by a camera trap roaming at the Bihta air base near Patna. Photo: C K Manoj

Wild animals are freely roaming human settlements in Bihar as people stay inside their homes due to the 21-day nationwide lockdown in the wake of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.

A leopard has been spotted roaming in an Indian Air Force base near Patna. Nilgai antelope have been spotted in wheat and maize fields of Bakhtiarpur and Bhojpur. And an old, male tiger has made a 150-kilometre-long journey from Madhya Pradesh to take up residence in the state’s Kaimur Wildlife Sanctuary.

The leopard was first spotted by staff at the 900-acre Bihta air base some 40 km southwest of Patna. They informed the forest officials who are now trying hard to trap the leopard.

“We don’t know how long the leopard was present there but it has been seen moving in the air base premises for the past two days. We are trying to catch it,” the local conservator of forests, Patna, Gopal Singh, told this reporter on April 2, 2020.

The leopard possibly reached the air base by walking along the Sone river from the Kaimur hills, some 250 km southwest of Patna, according to Singh.

Dozens of nilgai have been spotted near human settlements in various parts of the state with few or no people to disturb them.

On March 31, the residents of Karnauti village under Bakhtiyarpur block in Patna district got scared when herds of nilgai came to the village. After passing through the village streets, they moved into the nearby fields of ripening wheat.

“We are helpless. Nilgai herds have been damaging our crops for long. But this time, their activities have increased since the villagers are locked in their homes due to the lockdown,” Sunil Saurabh, a local resident, said over phone.

“They love to eat corncobs and while searching for them, they often reach our village since maize is grown in plenty here,” he added.

Herds of nilgai have also been found moving on the roads in Bhojpur district. Witnesses said they were said to be 40-50 in number.

A herd of nilgai amid wheat fields in Bakhtiarpur. Photo: C K Manoj

A tiger in Kaimur

Forest officials have also spotted a fully-grown male tiger in the Kaimur wildlife sanctuary. Although tigers are present in the state’s lone tiger reserve, Valmiki Tiger Reserve in West Champaran district, this is the first time that the presence of a tiger has been confirmed in Kaimur.

While the officials had indications about the tiger’s presence, it was confirmed only after March 26 with camera trap evidence.

Preliminary reports indicate that the tiger is an old, male that perhaps lost its territory somewhere in the Bandhavgarh-Sanjay Dhubri-Panna Reserve Complex of Madhya Pradesh and reached Kaimur after covering more than 150 kms, Deepak Kumar Singh, forest department secretary, said.

“It seems animals are experiencing a new kind of freedom due to the absence of humans at this time and are walking on the streets or main roads,” Arvind Mishra, environmentalist, said.

“Their intrusion into human settlements could lead to human-animal conflicts after the lockdown is lifted. However, the animals will move into their original habitats once the humans come out,” Mishra explained. 

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