Cameras capture big cats snoozing

Published: 05 December, 2011 07:27 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav |

For the first time, SGNP officials can pore over pictures of leopards residing in the forest, study their behaviour, and spot their movements to minimise man-animal conflict

For the first time, SGNP officials can pore over pictures of leopards residing in the forest, study their behaviour, and spot their movements to minimise man-animal conflict

The big spotted cats inhabiting the Sanjay Gandhi National Park could actually be seen in the middle of manoeuvres that officials could only speculate about until recently. What changed?

Don't let the bugs bite: With its eyes half-open, a drowsy big cat
reposes amid the foliage of a tree branch

A couple of months ago, the SGNP got camera traps, enabling forest authorities, for the first time in the park's history, to capture the movement of the leopards and study their behaviour.

Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) and SGNP Director Sunil Limaye said, "In a bid to avoid man-animal conflict and study the movement and behaviour of leopards, we started the process of installing cameras in the forest. I am happy to announce that our traps installed in Kanheri and Tulsi areas have yielded some results. For the first time, we have been successful in capturing two leopards in one frame."

In the month of September, SGNP, through its initiative 'Mumbaikars for SGNP', started installing the camera traps inside the forest at various places.

Burp? The picture, captured on the night of November 13, shows a
leopard sitting next to what looks like the leftovers of its dinner

When an animal passes in front of the trap, the camera detects its movement and body heat, and quietly snaps a photograph. One can also take one-minute videos after the photograph.

Some of the pictures captured between November 10 and 30 are in possession of MiD DAY, and give an insight into leopard behaviour. For example, they are sociable beings and prefer a consort while they move around.

An interesting image captured on the night of November 13 shows a leopard standing by the side of the carcass of a deer, presumably its dinner. Another image from the night of November 23 shows a leopard relaxing in a leafy nook on a tree branch.

A video in MiD DAY's possession also shows a leopard clambering down a tree during night.

Two's company: Officials said that camera traps helped them establish
that sometimes, leopards prefer a companion to move in the forest

Officials are also expecting that they will soon be able to capture the images of four antelopes that inhabit the park, but have remained elusive owing to their solitary habits. Wildlife experts feel that setting up camera traps will only help SGNP keep a track on the exact number of leopards in the area and study their behaviour, which if documented properly, can be very helpful.

Camera traps
A camera-trap is a box about a foot (30 cm) tall, six inches (15 cm) wide, and two inches (5 cm) thick. It consists of a camera, a heat/motion sensor, and a power supply. Mounted on a tree, or on a pole affixed to the ground, it observes the surrounding forest from its perch. The electronic eye looks for heat in motion, and is triggered off by the presence of animals. The trap is used only to capture unobtrusive photographs of the creature, not the animal itself. Officials frequently use camera traps in forests across the country during tiger census.

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