The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) will begin a study on leopard distribution at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) next week, beginning with an exercise to count the cat’s prey-base density. The project will start with a reconnaissance across the park to fix camera traps at suitable locations to record images.
For some years now, park officials have determined leopard prey-base density only on the basis of a water hole count. WII will use the line-transect method to estimate leopard prey density.
“Prey density gives us an idea of the places where leopards are moving for prey. Along with marking transects, we will also observe pug marks, scats and tracks to identify ideal locations to place camera traps. The actual camera trapping will begin in January,” said Nikit Surve, who is conducting the study as part of his WII Master’s project in wildlife science.
In this method, approximately 12 to 15 transects (the sample area) of maximum two-kilometres each will be marked across the park. WII scientists and volunteers will walk at least four times in the morning and evening to estimate prey species densities.
The sighting of total number of individuals, animal species and sighting distance is recorded and final number is computed using special software.
From past camera images, sambhar and spotted deers come across as the basic prey in the park while on the fringes, dogs and cattle are their main prey base.
This is the first time that a detailed leopard abundance study will be conducted using more than 25 camera traps. Earlier, The Mumbaikars for SGNP study found the park has at least 21 leopards. “The study on prey base, leopard abundance and their ecology will give us a chance to manage the park better and mitigate leopard-human conflict,” said Vikas Gupta, director, SGNP.