More leopards, sloth bears in Gujarat, By DNA Correspondant: Tuesday, May 31, 2011, 11:12 IST

Immediately my warning sirens to off with this survey…the surveyers deserve an A for effort but this type of survey is fraught with inconsistancies.

The number of leopards and sloth bears in the state has gone up considerably. In the latest census, conducted early this month by the state forest department, 1,160 leopards and 293 sloth bears were counted in the forests of the state.

The findings of the counting that was carried out in 26 districts of the state between May 16 and 18 were released by state forest officials on Monday. The officials said that there are 1,160 leopards in the state now as compared to 1070 in 2006 when the last census was done.

This shows an 8.41 % rise in the population of the big cat. Similarly, a total of 293 sloth bears were counted in 2011 as against 247 in 2006- a rise of 18.60%.

The census is conducted every five years and the last counting was undertaken in 2006.Junagadh district with an estimated 385 leopards tops the chart. It is followed by Dahod with 162 and Amreli with 105.

“Thanks to the Gir National Park, the leopard population is very high in Junagadh district,” explained SK Nanda, principal secretary, forest and environment.

The forest officials chose to tread carefully when asked about leopard-human conflict. “The only problem areas are Gir and Mandvi. But yes, it has always been a problem. However, a closer look will reveal that the number of attacks has not increased,” stated HS Singh, principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife).

In India, about 35% of the leopard population is in found in Protected Areas. In this year’s census in Gujarat, about one third (445) of the leopards were counted in the 14 Protected Areas (PAs) of the state and the rest were reported from other areas. The census reveals that like in the other states, more leopards are found outside the Protected Areas. Since 1984, when there were 498 leopards in the state, the population of this wild animal has gone up consistently.

The population of sloth bear was found to be highest in Dahod district (105), followed by Banaskantha (90) and Sabarkantha (23). Officials said they were delighted to find sloth bear in Jambughoda wildlife sanctuary. “Earlier, sloth bear only visited Jambughoda but now breeding has started and we may see more sloth bears in the coming years,” added SK Nanda.

Close to 4,500 people, including volunteers from 247 NGOs and several animal lovers were involved in the three-day counting drive. Majority of the counting work had to be done in the evening after sunset. “Leopards don’t move in hordes so we positioned ourselves on trees and waited near water holes for them to come out and drink. We relied on their pug marks as no two leopards have similar pug marks,” explained Singh.

Singh also indicated that India will continue to have the highest number of leopards. “Around 70% of Asia’s leopards are found in India. The counting in Gujarat has drawn a positive picture and speaks of the state’s efforts towards protection of habitat, environment and conservation of water holes,” he said.


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