Following its annual tradition, this year too the waterhole census was organised at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park on the occasion of Buddha Poornima. Census involved volunteers and forest guards keeping an eye on the waterholes across Borivli national park, including Tungareshwar and Yeeor ranges, from Saturday 5 pm to Sunday 5 pm. The census was carried out on Buddha Poornima, as it is easier to spot animals during full moon.

By analysing its pugmarks, two volunteers try to figure out which animal visited a waterhole in Yeoor. Pic/Darshan Ambre
By analysing its pugmarks, two volunteers try to figure out which animal visited a waterhole in Yeoor. Pic/Darshan Ambre

Officials from SGNP told mid-day that six leopards and a few wild boards were spotted on the Borivli side, while majority of the volunteers saw spotted deer.

A forest guard scans the area for wildlife at a waterhole in Yeoor range. Pic/Atul Kamble
A forest guard scans the area for wildlife at a waterhole in Yeoor range. Pic/Atul Kamble

“We received hundreds of calls. Everybody wanted to be a part of the census so that they could spot a leopard and other wild animals. This year, we witnessed a rise in the number of calls. Most of the callers claimed they were inspired by Steve Winter’s iconic leopard image. The image has had a positive impact on the minds of people and is helping in leopard conservation,” said a forest department (FD) officer.

Volunteers lookout for the animals from a machan. Pic/Prabhanjan Dhanu
Volunteers lookout for the animals from a machan. Pic/Prabhanjan Dhanu

With the overwhelming response the initiative received this year, the authorities resorted to lottery system to allot locations to the volunteers participating in the census. Assistant Conservator of Forests (ACF) Uday Dhage said, “More than 100 people, including volunteers and forest guards, were part of the waterhole census that lasted 24 hours (Saturday 5 pm to Sunday 5 pm). We will soon compile the data from all the waterholes.”