Leopard count at Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) rises to 41 but 50 per cent of old ones missing

Feb 07, 2018, 08:45 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav

Wildlife experts raise concern over missing big cats at Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) and seek more foot patrols inside the park

A leopard captured at a camera-trap location inside SGNP
A leopard captured at a camera-trap location inside SGNP

The good news is the number of leopards in Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) and Aarey Milk Colony, as per a 2017 study, has gone up from the number recorded in 2015 β€” 41 from the earlier 35; the bad news: most of these 41 are new habitants, with more than 50 per cent of the leopards from the 2015 data reported missing.

Also read: SGNP adopts two leopard cubs that were abandoned by their mother in Ahmednagar

Wildlife experts have raised concerns, saying the need of the hour is to have more on-foot patrolling inside the park. mid-day had recently reported how the ecosystem at SGNP was at risk β€” between 2007 and 2017, there were 204 instances of action taken on illicit liquor-brewing units found in Yeoor and Tulsi range of the park but only five arrests.

One of the photographs from a camera trap set up in SGNP
One of the photographs from a camera trap set up in SGNP

Mismatch
As per the 2015 study, 35 leopards were found in the 140-sqkm area comprising SGNP, Film City, Aarey and Powai. Wildlife researcher Nikit Surve from Wildlife Conservation Society-India had carried out the study using camera traps. He carried out the 2017 study under the supervision of Dr Vidya Athreya, from the Wildlife Conservation Society.

"We photo-captured 41 leopards β€” 15 males, 23 females and three whose sex is unknown. Of these, only 14 are those also recorded in 2015; the rest 27 were photographed for the first time," he said. He also found that six leopards from 2017 matched with those in the 2011 camera-trapping database. The other animals photo-captured were jungle cat, rusty spotted cat, bonnet macaque, rhesus macaque, common langur, sambar, spotted deer, barking deer, small Indian civet, palm civet, Indian hare and mongoose.

Larger effort
Explaining the increase in the number of leopards, Surve said, "As compared to the 2015 data, the number of leopards in 2017 is more, but that’s mainly because the camera-trapping effort from 2015 to 2017 was substantially increased due to greater availability of resources, as provided by the forest department. In 2015, 422 trap nights covering 31 camera-trap locations yielded 88 photographs of leopards, whereas in 2017, the effort was more than doubled to 922 trap nights covering 49 camera-trap locations giving us 235 leopard images."

When asked about the missing leopards, he added, "The reason 21 leopards from 2015 were not photo-captured this time around could be natural or accidental deaths, or them moving outside SGNP, of which we currently have poor knowledge." mid-day asked SGNP director Anwar Ahmed about the threat of illicit liquor-brewing units to wildlife in the area. "We have protection huts in place, where our staff is always present. Our guards keep patrolling inside the park; there are no such illicit units operational inside," he said.

Illustration/Uday Mohite
Illustration/Uday Mohite

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