Spotting the spotted in SNGP
Leopard numbers in Sanjay Gandhi National Park is on the rise as seen in trap-camera footage, yet there still remains some areas of concern.
Recent camera-trap images of leopards residing within the Sanjay Gandhi National Park(SNGP), Mumbai indicate that the numbers have gone up to 47 in 2018, compared to 41 in 2017 and 35 in 2015. However, 16 of the leopards captured in images in 2017 were not observed in 2018, pointing to either a dispersal outside the park, or death. Twenty-five images match with those from earlier years.
The exercise carried out across 140 sq.kms also revealed the good health of a cub which lost its mother early this year to a snare. The cub was caught on camera with a chital kill this March. Another interesting find from the images was the long distance covered by a leopard which had crossed a creek, highway and railway line. However, the leopard was found dead on the Kaman – Bhiwandi road in January 2018. Six other cases of leopard dispersal from one end of the park to the other were also revealed.
“Continuous monitoring of leopards across the entire landscape using camera trapping as a tool will help us understand the population dynamics of the leopards of Mumbai,” said WCS-India researcher Nikit Surve who did the density monitoring and leopard movement in and around the SGNP, in collaboration with Anwar Ahmed,Chief Conservator of Forests, SGNP.
Other beings photo-captured apart from the humans were Jungle cat, Bonnet macaque, Rhesus macaque, Common langur, Sambar, Spotted deer, Barking deer, Small Indian civet, Palm civet, Indian hare and Ruddy mongoose.
The camera trapping was sampled in SGNP including the peripheral areas of Aarey Milk Colony, Bombay Veterinary College, IIT-Powai, Ghodbunder village and Nagla block. Approximately 140 sq. kms of area was covered in this exercise. The park was divided into two blocks; Block 1 included 24 camera trap locations and Block 2 included 26 locations, making a total of 50 camera trap locations. Cameras were set to function for 22 days (25th April to 16th May) in Block 1 and 23 days (17th May to 8th June) in Block 2.
The SGNP is spread across 104 sq km with an expanding Mumbai city having reached its boundary on all sides. Humans and wildlife have been living at close quarters since long. The park has over 1800 Adivasi families living within, and also many illegal settlements. The human population within is believed to be over 250,000.
India lost 460 leopards in 2018 to numerous reasons, with hunting/poaching claiming most lives, followed by natural deaths, accidents and attacks by villagers. Leopard deaths have been on the rise in the last few years.
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