First Leopard Census at Sanjay Gandhi National Park by Wildlife Institute of India
In an effort to know the exact population of leopards at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), Wildlife Institute of India (WII) is going to survey their number and density in this urban forest from coming December.
The survey will be carried out across the 108-sq km area and its first phase will commence by the end of current year. In this phase, camera traps will be laid to capture the images of leopards.
Senior scientists S Sathyakumar and K Shankar will guide this one-of-its-kind project, which is part of wildlife student Nikit Surve’s research. S Sathyakumar said “The study is a six-month project, but it may extend till December 2015.” Further, the director of SGNP, Vikas Gupta, said “As soon as we get the final research proposal from WII, we will start laying the camera traps. Presently, we are well-equipped with 30 high-end camera traps.”
The plan of WII involves dividing the park into different grids of 4 sq km each. And then installing a camera trap in each grid. It is said that the same technology that was employed for the annual nationwide tiger census will be used in this study.
Senior scientist Sathyakumar said “For a maximum of 45 days, one camera trap will be installed on both sides of the road. And after 14 days, the cameras will be put to use again for a month. It will help to find out the exact number of leopards in a specific area.”
According to experts, this study would be beneficial in managing the man-animal conflict in the forest. It will ultimately lead to enhanced protection for leopards and their home, which will help in boosting wildlife tourism in India. Experts also suggest that if WII’s effort to count the number of leopards in SGNP comes out successful, the same plan can be used to count the number of different other animals in other national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in India.
Further, SGNP is close to Mumbai and if the number of leopards turns out to be satisfactory; this park could be promoted as one of the best weekend getaway from Mumbai.