To ensure a more accurate census process, officials at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) have decided to adopt a dual strategy from next year.
Stating human interference and water paucity as possible reasons for not sighting as many animals this year, Sunil Limaye, director and conservator for forests, SGNP said, “Next year, we will start the actual sighting process in April where we will provide more waterholes. In mid May, we will undertake the scientific line-transect method. Based on those findings, we will be able to analyse this year’s census data.”
This year, the park authorities used the old waterhole method and pugmark tracking in May. Last year the line-transect method – developed by the Wildlife Institute of India and the National Tiger Conservation Authority – was used. But the data is yet to be released.
“The pugmark technique only estimates the presence or absence of an animal and not its density. Hence, these figures cannot be accurate at all. We need to do away with these cheap and old techniques and adopt scientific methods for the census,” said Krishna Tiwari, city forest officer, Bombay Natural History Society.
Expressing concern over the decline in the animal numbers, environmentalists said a thorough study needs to be undertaken to ascertain the reasons for the decline at the Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary. They held poaching and extensive tree felling inside the sanctuary responsible for the dip in numbers.
“The figures for Tungareshwar is alarming. A fact-finding study must be conducted before it gets too late,” said Goldin Quadros, interim director, World Wide Fund for Nature. “There is definitely much more than what meets the eye.”
As for SGNP, there is an urgent need to remove encroachments and build a boundary wall, thereby managing the park better.
Environmentalists said that shrinking green cover translates in a decline in herbivore population such as deer as a result of which leopards stray into human settlements looking for prey.