It was a lucky day for Thane resident and birding enthusiast Avinash Bhagat, when he was out to watch birds as usual, but spotted the elusive Indian Golden Jackal at the Bhandup mangroves last Monday.
The lush mangroves, adjacent to the Eastern Express Highway (EEH) and just a kilometre ahead of the Bhandup (East) salt pans, have become a birder’s paradise over the years. However, Bhagat could hardly contain his happiness when he spotted the rare jackal near the pumping station.
One of Bhagat’s birdwatcher friends also reported spotting the rare animal about 10 days back.
Bhagat spotted the solitary jackal around 7.30am. “The mangroves are a great habitat for the jackal. The jackal seemed unfazed when it saw me. I’m guessing it is used to the fishermen and salt pan workers. They are shy animals and are not known to attack humans,” Bhagat said.
According to Bhagat, earlier this year he and his friends had spotted a pack of four jackals.
Once found across mangrove forests across western and eastern suburbs, sighting an Indian Golden Jackal is a rarity now. Apart from the mangrove forests of Bhandup, Kanjurmarg and Vikhroli, Navi Mumbai mangroves are the only areas where the animal is now seen on rare occasions.
“Today, the mangroves have become their last refuge, where they find crabs, small fish and rodents,” said Isaac Kehimkar, general manager, programmes, Bombay Natural History Society.
Nandkumar Pawar, an environmentalist from Bhandup, found two dead jackals on the EEH this year. “The government has eco-tourism plans for the mangroves. They should also stop encroachment to save the jackals,” he said.
“The habitat is not under any major threat as forest guards patrol the area,” said Kishor Thakre, deputy conservator of forests, Thane.