Study finds leopards making home close to human habitats in Delhi urban forest

Oct 09, 2022 03:14 PM IST

Eight leopards were found at Delhi’s Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary during a year-long study using camera traps

A year-long study of mammals at Delhi’s Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary (ABWS) using camera traps has revealed the presence of eight leopards, five of which are likely using the sanctuary as their permanent home, the report revealed.

Within the Delhi urban forest, the leopards were found most frequently in areas which are close to human habitats. (Sourced)
Within the Delhi urban forest, the leopards were found most frequently in areas which are close to human habitats. (Sourced)

The study, held between June 2021 and June, 2022, was carried out by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) in coordination with the Delhi forest and wildlife department.

The study found that within the sanctuary itself, the leopards were found most frequently in areas which are close to human habitats.

For the purpose of the study, around 32.71 sqkm area of ABWS was divided into 35 grids of 1x1 sqkm each. However, due to a limited number of camera traps available, only 21 of these grids were chosen for installation of camera traps. The study says camera trap stations were set up in each grid where two cameras were facing each other, so both flanks of the animal could be captured.

“The sampling duration for each block was 28 days, with a total of 84 days over the year. More than 14,000 stills of different mammals were captured and eight unique leopards were identified during this,” said the study, co-released by BNHS and the forest department.

It says out of the eight leopards, five of them were regularly appearing in front of the camera traps, making researchers believe that they are using the sanctuary as their home. “Of these eight leopards, four males and one female have appeared on a regular basis in front of the camera traps. They have been found roaming the same tracks once and even twice in the same week multiple times. This suggests that they have made this urban forest their permanent home,” the report says.

Each leopard was identified by analysing the difference in the rosette patterns on their limbs, tail, head and forequarters, the study added.

Sohail Madan, centre manager at BNHS said the study confirms the presence of leopards and while it was estimated that there are around 4-5 leopards at Asola, these camera trap images have brought clarity on the actual number. “Five leopards are being spotted frequently and they appear to be living and thriving there. The other three which were spotted on camera traps appear to be leopards that visit the sanctuary from time to time, owing to a suitable habitat and prey base,” he said.

ABWS is the southern part of the Delhi Ridge and the northernmost stretch of the ancient Aravalli range, which begins in Gujarat and extends across Rajasthan and Haryana entering Delhi at Gurugram. ABWS is also part of the Sariska-Delhi Wildlife Corridor, which runs from the Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan to the Delhi Ridge. Leopard movements from Rajasthan to Delhi have been traced on this corridor and this movement has led to several cases of roadkill on the Gurugram-Faridabad highway as well as on the Eastern-Peripheral Expressway.

The animal itself can be both diurnal and nocturnal in nature, depending on factors such as prey base, presence of large carnivores and human domination. In regions with strong human presence, or in forests with other large carnivores, the leopard may act as a nocturnal animal. However, in the absence of big carnivores it can show a diurnal living cycle, experts say.

“Sanjay Colony is highly human dominated area, despite this, leopards were seen visiting the area from time to time. An area of sanctuary touching to Chhatarpur region, followed by Neeli Jheel has witnessed the maximum sightings of these leopards, which indicates that they have adapted well along with humans,” said the report.

The study has also highlighted data on the presence and spatial distribution of other mammals such as striped hyena, jungle cat, golden jackal, Indian hare, Indian boar, black buck, sambar deer, spotted deer, and hog deer among others, present in the sanctuary.

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