The Maharashtra Forest Department carried out a day-long annual waterhole animal census of the Pune district on May 10 which covered animal sightings in four wildlife sanctuaries — Nanaj, Bhimashankar, Rehekuri and Mayureshwar. As per the findings of the survey, a significant rise has been reported in the counting of most of the animals.
Shivaji Phatangare, divisional forest officer, Wildlife Pune, stated that as compared to census conducted in the last two years, a sharp rise has been observed in the sightings of some of the animals such as barking deer, sambar deer, chinkara, wild hen, wild goat and others. However, the numbers of some of the animals have also registered a fall. Such animals include porcupine, Great Indian Bustard, monkey, fox and leopard, among others. “Though a leopard was not sighted this time, the positive sign is that the forest official did spot pugmarks of a female leopard and her cub this year,” said Phatangare.
The census work began at 12 noon on May 10 and lasted until 12 noon of May 11. The teams consisted of not just forest staff, but also volunteers. At Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary, 50 forest staff and 40 volunteers participated in the census. At Nanaj Sanctuary, 38 forest officials and 4 volunteers were present. Likewise, at Rehekuri Sanctuary, 15 forest staff and 6 volunteers were present while at Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, 26 volunteers and 18 forest staff carried out the survey. The volunteers consist of NGO members, wildlife enthusiasts, nature lovers and students. The species sighted by the staff and volunteers at the assigned waterholes during the census duration are counted and later compiled for the survey.
Phatangare pointed out that the reason behind the increase in the sighting of herbivorous animals in Nanaj Sanctuary is that in the last two years, the forest department uprooted the exotic plant, gliricidia, that dotted the forest area. After the uprooting, the land, which turned into a grassland gradually, started attracting various herbivorous animals. “About 20 years ago, under the plan of afforestation of barren land, gliricidia plantation was carried out in Gangewadi in south Solapur. However, the herbivorous animals did not feed on them. Hence, under integrated wildlife management plan, we decided to uproot them to develop a habitat for herbivorous animals. It has started showing good result,” said Phatangare.
Except Bhimashankar Sanctuary where most of the waterholes are natural, at the other three sanctuaries, more than 50 per cent waterholes are artificial. During the summer season, while the natural waterholes run dry, artificial ones are regularly refilled by the forest staff, Phatangare said.