Mumbai: 100 citizens camp out at SGNP for waterhole census

More than 100 citizens assisted the Forest Department with the annual wildlife census at Sanjay Gandhi National Park under the full moon’s light on Buddha Purnima

Over 100 citizens camped out through the night at Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) on Buddha Purnima on Monday, to assist the Forest Department with the annual waterhole census. While only a few volunteers were able to spot leopards, many counted themselves lucky for sighting other wildlife such as Spotted deer, Sambar deer and wild boar.

Officials at the national park are thrilled with the response, pointing out that participation from volunteers has continued to increase every year. This year, there were more than 100 volunteers, up from 80-odd participants last year. Tejas Thackeray, son of Shiv Sena chief Udhav Thackeray, was also seen taking part in the census in the core forest in the Tulsi Range.

Two forest officials and two volunteers were posted at each of the machans from 4 pm on Monday to 5 am last morning to count animals as they visited watering holes to quench their thirst. Pics/Darshan Ambre
Two forest officials and two volunteers were posted at each of the machans from 4 pm on Monday to 5 am last morning to count animals as they visited watering holes to quench their thirst. Pics/Darshan Ambre

“Every year there is an increase in the number of people coming forward for the census which is a very good sign for the forest as well as wildlife. There were only a few lucky people who were able to spot a leopard, but SGNP forest has its own unique beauty and many people who participated in the census for the first time were completely mesmerised with the beauty of the forest,” said Assistant Conservator of Forests (ACF) Santosh Saste.

Spotted deer were sighted a few meters away from a waterhole situated on the Shilonda natural trail. Pic/Prashant WaydandeSpotted deer were sighted a few meters away from a waterhole situated on the Shilonda natural trail. Pic/Prashant Waydande

Waterhole census is a widely used method to get a rough idea of the animal population in an area. At SGNP, the count is carried out every year on the night of Buddha Purnima, when the full moon’s light is at its brightest. Volunteers were posted at machans near each of the park’s watering holes from 4 pm on Monday to 5 am last morning.

Wildlife lover and photographer Darshan Ambre, who has been volunteering for the census since the last four years, was posted at a machan in the core Tulsi range this year. “The experience of sitting on the machan in the forest and listening to the alarm calls of the Sambar deer is unforgettable.

I was not lucky enough to see a leopard, the top predator of SGNP, but my experience cannot be expressed in words,” said Ambre, who spotted Sambar deer and Chital during the night, as well several species of birds in the morning. “The SGNP forest is unique in itself for its biodiversity.

Many people who stay in Mumbai are not aware about this hidden treasure and participation in the waterhole census is the best way to witness the wonderful wildlife this forest has,” said another volunteer, Bharat Sardar.

The census
>> There are 51 watering holes in the national park and a machan was set up near each of these
>> Each machan had two forest officials and two volunteers to count animals as they went to quench their thirst
>> The teams recorded their sightings in a form submitted to park authorities, who will compile final figures by next week
>> Some of the species spotted were leopards, Spotted deer, Sambar deer, wild boar, and the Small Indian civet

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