Delhi: Leopard caught on camera trap at Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary

This is the first piece of concrete evidence of the recent presence of the big cat in the area.

A leopard at the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary has been caught on a camera trap – the first piece of concrete evidence of the recent presence of the big cat in the area, according to officials of the Forest Department.

Amit Anand, Deputy Conservator of Forests (South Division), said camera traps were placed in different portions of the sanctuary as part of a wildlife census. The image, from August 30, was captured around 6 am, going by the time stamp.

As this is the first time camera traps have been placed within the sanctuary, it is also the first instance of a leopard being captured in a camera trap image. “We have been attempting to improve the habitat in the area. Water conservation measures and trying to reduce trespassing could have helped protect the habitat for the region’s flora and fauna,” said Anand, adding that people in the nearby area have been alerted about the presence of the leopard.

“The sanctuary has been a transient habitat for leopards, but we never had proof of their existence here. There was a sighting in early January this year, following which we decided to organise a wildlife census,” said Anand.

The census began around two months ago and five-six personnel are part of the process. “We are looking at mammals, reptiles, and birds,” he said.

The good part of the leopard sighting is that it is now being seen in an area which it wasn’t seen in previously, said Sohail Madan of the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS). “Instead of the leopard going into villages or crossing roads and highways, it is now in the sanctuary in areas where the department has been working on reforestation and making waterholes and check dams. Trespassing used to be rampant in the areas where the leopard is being seen now. That has been stopped and the reduced disturbance has really helped,” he said.

This sort of restoration appears to be helping the leopard habitat, he said, but only the three-year-long study being done by the BNHS and Forest Department can confirm the same. The wildlife census is part of this three-year study.

“The study is not just about counting numbers. We want to find out where the leopard goes, which habitats it uses, what it eats, what the prey base here is, and what the density of that prey base is. We’ll be studying pug marks and scat to understand its diet, besides on-foot surveys. Camera traps are one way to collect evidence of lesser-seen animals,” said Madan.

This is the first such study on mammals at Asola Bhatti, though birds and butterflies in the region have been studied before. “The leopard is not an unusual sighting at Asola Bhatti. We have had a few markers since January this year. The habitat is rich with monkeys that leopards feed on, providing a rich prey base,” said Madan.

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