Life in Gurgaon

From leopards to krait, drone mapping of Aravalli forests reveals abundance of wildlife

Source: Hindustan Times

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Gurugram

Over 20 species of wildlife have been spotted by the forest department officials during the drone mapping project, in which six villages of the district were surveyed to check for signs of encroachment, illegal activities, and presence of wildlife in the Aravalli forests. The project, which began on June 16, will continue until October.

Of these, at least 12 species that have been identified are “new” to the ranges. These include a species of porcupines, two species of civet cats, a variety of snake, including the black-headed royal and common krait, hedgehogs, rhesus macaque and the peafowl.

Among the earlier species identified again are leopards, hyenas, jackals, mongoose, porcupines, jungle cats, monkeys, deer, nilgai, a variety of birds, snakes, monitor lizards and other reptiles.

Particularly high numbers of Indian rock pythons, cobras, and common kraits were observed and there has also been an increase in rescue operations to conserve these species, but officials said they were not able to capture specific figures of their population.

“The movement of wildlife has increased in the Aravallis in the last five years, and there have been fewer instances of leopards entering villages in search of water,” said Vinod Kumar, the additional principal chief conservator of forests, Gurugram.

In 2015, a total of 31 leopard sightings were reported in the Gurugram-Mewat-Manesar belt. In 2018, nearly 35 sightings were reported from Gurugram alone. Officials said this indicates a rise in population of the leopard. Last week, four leopards, including two cubs, were spotted in the Ferozepur Jhirka village.

“The population of carnivores and herbivores has increased in the region. To understand the actual reason behind this, we are trying to collect their exact population figures,” Kumar said, adding that it is important at the moment to increase the population of carnivorous species to maintain the ecological balance. “That is why, leopard conservation is our main focus right now,” he said.

JUNGLE TRAILS
The population of leopards, small carnivores, and their prey has increased in the Aravallis. A look at where they were spotted frequently.

In 2016-17, the wildlife authorities had installed 25 camera traps in the Aravallis to record the variety and population of wildlife, and their movement pattern. With a view to protect the local habitat and improve the living conditions of animals, the wildlife department conducted drone mapping of the region.

To generate distribution maps of the carnivore species and the area occupied by different categories of animals, 177 trails—ranging from 2.5 km length to 11 km length covering the total distance of 719.25km—were searched for the occurrence of signs of carnivores in 59 forest beats of the state.

The wildlife department applied different methods to identify the variety and number of wildlife occurring in the Aravallis. They believe the number has increased due to improvement in vegetation/forest cover, providing ample food and space for animals.

There have been direct and indirect sightings to corroborate the claims of the increase in the number of animals. Pictures and reports from camera traps, report submitted by wildlife guards, sightings of newborn cubs in Gurugram region and Mewat, and records of pugmarks near water holes by forest officials.