First statewide wildlife survey set to begin this week

A statewide wildlife census, to be conducted in protected as well as non-protected forest areas of Haryana, will commence this week, officials in the forest and wildlife department have confirmed
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Published on Feb 14, 2021 11:29 PM IST
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ByPrayag Arora-Desai, Gurugram

A statewide wildlife census, to be conducted in protected as well as non-protected forest areas of Haryana, will commence this week, officials in the forest and wildlife department have confirmed. This will be the first such wildlife count conducted across Haryana, although site-specific surveys in ecologically sensitive areas have been executed in recent years.

Department officials also said that an advance payment of 20 lakh has already been made for the same to the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, which is the organisation tasked with conducting the census. First proposed in March 2019, the census could not be immediately taken up due to scarcity of funds, as reported by HT last February, despite financial approval having been granted in July 2019.

Commenting on the matter, Haryana’s chief conservator of forests, ML Rajvanshi, said, “Availability of funds is no longer an issue. We have taken the matter forward with the Wildlife Institute of India. This census has been pending for a few years and now that the winter is retreating, fieldwork can be taken up for installation of camera traps and other wildlife surveillance systems. The estimated cost of the exercise is just under 40 lakh, of which half has already been paid to WII.”

This will be the first statewide wildlife count to be conducted in Haryana, though the wildlife department more recently engaged the WII to conduct smaller wildlife surveys at Yamunanagar’s Kalesar National Park, in 2016, and in South Haryana’s Aravalli hills in 2017. A wildlife census in Kalesar had also been conducted in 2013, which recorded the presence of close to 100 leopards in the region.

The WII’s 2017 wildlife census for Gurugram and adjoining districts (a copy of which is with HT), identifies over 200 square kilometres in five districts of south Haryana that serve as leopard habitats, with Gurugram and Faridabad forming its core area. In this region, the WII had recorded the presence of 31 leopards, 166 jackals, three wolves, 126 hyenas and 61 civet cats. The villages of Ghamroj in Bhondsi, Raipur in Raisina, Mangar, Badhkal and Gothda in Faridabad, Kotla and Kansali in Mewat, and Khol and Panchota in Mahendragarh were found to have the highest densities of leopards.

While the upcoming census will focus on ascertaining biodiversity counts in known eco-sensitive zones — namely Gurugram’s Sultanpur National Park and nearby Aravalli hills, and Kalesar National Park in Yamunanagar — in addition to eight wildlife sanctuaries in Panchkula, Kurukshetra, Jhajjar, Sirsa and Rewari districts, open fields and buffer zones adjoining protected forest areas will also be surveyed for the presence of wildlife, Rajvanshi said, adding that the entire exercise may take a year to complete.

“We have also requested that there be an emphasis on reducing man-animal conflict, steps for which will be recommended by the Wildlife Institute after a thorough examination of the data,” Rajvanshi added.

Bilal Habib, head of the department of animal ecology and conservation biology at WII, could not be contacted despite multiple attempts.

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Friday, January 21, 2022