In a first, camera traps to help count leopards in Rajasthan’s Jhalana
Beginning February 15, the 24 sq km Jhalana Forest Reserve, situated in Jaipur, will be put under hi-tech surveillance to ensure effective monitoring and conservation of endangered wild animals, including the leopards.
In a first, the Jaipur forest department would install camera traps in the Jhalana and Amagarh forest reserves to assess the leopard population in an exercise beginning February 1.
Also, beginning February 15, the 24 sq km Jhalana Forest Reserve, situated in Jaipur, will be put under hi-tech surveillance to ensure effective monitoring and conservation of endangered wild animals, including the leopards.
Using camera traps for estimating the leopard population is a major shift from the traditional methodology where foresters had to fall back upon water hole census and pugmarks to count the spotted big cat. Camera traps have been used in the past with varying success rates by reserves across India for tiger estimation.
“The forest department is installing camera traps in Jhalana and Amagarh reserve areas to assess the leopard population, their home range and territory,” said Sudershan Sharma, deputy conservator of forest (wildlife), Jaipur.
Spread across 3,502 hectares, the two reserves along with Naharagarh are home to a sizeable number of leopards.
According to Wildlife Census 2016, the forest areas in Jaipur, including Nahargarh, had 41 leopards constituting just over 8 per cent of the total leopard population of Rajasthan, which was pegged at 508. Of this, Kumbhalgarh forest reserve is home to 95 leopards followed by Mount Abu (46), Sita Mata (40), Todgarh Raoli (35), and Panther Conservation Reserve, Sumerpur (28).
Sharma confirmed that it was for the first time in Jaipur that camera traps will be used to assess the leopard numbers. The department has already procured 10 cameras and would buy more depending on the need. “The traps, which comprise a pair of cameras, would be installed in a phase wise manner, first in Jhalana and then in Amagarh. The process will take a month’s time,” he said.
According to officials in the know of things, the photographs obtained from camera traps are fed into a software, which, based on the field conditions of the terrain involved, gives different estimations of the animal population size. Based on the lower and upper estimates, a number is reached, which is considered to be the closest to the actual count.
Sharma, meanwhile, said the hi-tech surveillance mechanism will also be made operational in Jhalana by February 15. For this a survey has already been conducted.
The hi-tech wildlife surveillance as well as anti-poaching system mechanism comprises drones, thermal-imaging cameras, high-resolution optical and dome cameras, data centres, and radio sets. The mechanism will ensure conservation of endangered animals; enhance the efficiency of forest officials; identify areas prone to poaching and other wildlife crimes; check infiltration, poaching and illegal mining; and provide fact-based information for effective decision-making.
Spots and more
• Rajasthan is the first state in the country to launch a project to conserve leopards by improving their prey base, mitigating conflicts with humans and controlling poaching. The project was launched in March 2017.
• Leopard is an endangered animal under schedule one of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
• The leopard population, according to 2015 wildlife census, was 434 in the state, which increased to 508 in 2016.
• Around 20 leopards have been killed between 2014 and 2016 in accidents or by humans when they strayed into human habitations or agricultural fields.