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Annual waterhole wildlife census missed for second year running

PUNE The annual waterhole wildlife census, undertaken by the Maharashtra forest department, has not happened for two years in a row in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic
By Prachi Bari
PUBLISHED ON MAY 27, 2021 08:13 PM IST

PUNE The annual waterhole wildlife census, undertaken by the Maharashtra forest department, has not happened for two years in a row in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The exercise is traditionally carried out on a full moon night when it is easier to spot animals at national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and tiger reserves.

The waterhole census is a conservation exercise and environment experts believed it should not be missed.

“We are working with 15 per cent staff, which makes it very difficult to organise and arrange this census. We need at least two persons, a forest officer and a volunteer, at each location across all sanctuaries, keeping a vigil at waterholes atop machaans (a platform erected on a tree or at a height off the ground),” said Rahul Patil, deputy conservator of forests, Pune. Though Patil added that counting of animals happens throughout the year using cameras placed inside the forests.

The last census was conducted in 2019 at four wildlife sanctuaries - Nanaj, Bhimashankar, Rehekuri and Mayureshwar, where it was found that there has been an increase in the number Sambar deer, Chinkara, antelope and wolves. The Pune division of the Maharashtra forest department registered 2,497 different types of wildlife species during the 2019 census.

According to the census, the number of Sambar increased from 29 in 2018, to 31 in 2019. Along with that the Chinkara number increased from 399 to 417. The census report also shows that antelope figures increased from 858 to 1,071. The number of Bengal foxes had come down from 39 to 38.

Sunil Bhoite, honorary wild life warden in Satara, said, “Due to the pandemic, we could not get a group together, though we are constantly monitoring cameras, with motion sensors and infrared. We have recent tiger sightings on the Western ghats and have set corridors. If we can’t conduct an animal census, it affects the forest ecosystem.”

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