This year’s waterhole census saw a tremendous increase in sightings of spotted deer but leopards were seen fewer times compared to last year in Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), including Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary and Yeoor range.
According to the data released by SGNP on Tuesday, 392 spotted deer were seen this year, which is 177 more than last year 115. Leopards, though, were reduced to seven sightings compared to nine in 2016.
Many other animals such as Sambar deer, wild boar, wild cat, peacock, langoor, red-faced monkey, mongoose, bats, owls among others were also spotted during the census.
Since it is easier to spot animals during full moon, the census is conducted annually on Buddha Poornima, which fell on May 10 this year. It was carried out by SGNP officials with 102-odd volunteers. They kept vigil on the water holes across Borivli national park, Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary and Yeoor range of SGNP.
There are 49 watering holes in the national park and a machan was set up near each of them for teams to record their sightings, said SGNP officials. “Total 49 machans were set up near watering holes and volunteers were posted at each from 5 pm on May 10 to 5 pm on May 11,” said Anwar Ahmed, director and chief conservator of forest, SGNP, adding that each machan had two forest officials and two volunteers to count animals as they went to quench their thirst.
“It is more of an estimate than a census. Public participation in conservation is the biggest plus point and by doing that we update our data as well,” Ahmed added.
He added that the objective of adopting such method, even though it doesn’t give us any authentic data, is to involve public in conserving the wildlife and forests. “The census is nothing but a general observation. It will not give you exact figures of animals. It is an ancient method by which one can estimate the population. Now there are other advanced technologies like camera traps. Some animals will come to drink water on that day while some won’t,” said Krishna Tiwari, a naturalist and founder of the NGO Forest and Wildlife Conservation Society.