The NH-37 from Guwahati to Tinsukia in Assam weaves through some really magnificent Terai forests and grasslands in the Brahmaputra floodplains. It is also a highly populated landscape. I was driving overnight on NH37 on 28th February 2015 to Tinsukia. Around midnight, near Demow, in Sibsagar District, I saw a small gathering on the road and I assumed that there had been an accident. It was indeed an accident but of a different nature. It was a roadkill of a Leopard and the first thing which hit me was the total disrespect shown by the people towards a wild creature. People were busy clicking selfies with their smart phones. Some were trying to pull the Leopard’s tail and one lady in particular was tugging at its ear. I realised that the situation had gotten sufficiently out of hand when someone decided to pull the Leopard’s retractable claws. Through a friend, I reported the incident and passed on the GPS coordinates.
Places like Demow don’t have extensive forest cover but there exist smaller fragments scattered over the landscape. These patches act as refugia and provide vital corridors for movement of wildlife outside the protected area network. Additionally, the leopard is a case of a large mammal that has learnt to thrive in human-dominated landscapes. Highways like these should have means to control the speeds of vehicles by putting up barricades and speed beakers at identified wildlife crossing points. As India’s high speed road connectivity undergoes modernisation, mitigation measures such as underpasses and over bridges have to be an integral part of the highway design like what is being done internationally.
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As India's high speed road connectivity undergoes modernisation, mitigation measures such as underpasses and over bridges have to be an integral part of highway design like what is being done internationally.