The wildlife corridor of the Aravallis in Gurgaon and Faridabad harbours a richer “variety of mammals” than the Asola Wildlife Sanctuary, despite not having as much protection, according to a recent study. The finding, its proponents say, indicates the importance of preserving this section of forest cover in Haryana.
The study — a “systematic assessment” of mammals in the wildlife corridor formed by the Aravalli hills in Gurgaon and Faridabad with the Asola Wildlife Sanctuary in Delhi — has been carried out by Sunil Harsana, a researcher from Mangar village, with “inputs” from ecologist Dr Ghazala Shahabuddin and environmental analyst Chetan Agarwal. Dr Shahabuddin and Agarwal are also Senior Fellows at the Centre for Ecology, Development and Research (CEDAR).
Conducted over two seasons in 2019, the study is “supported” by WWF-India Small Grants Programme and CEDAR.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Harsana said, “The most interesting finding of the study was that in comparison to Asola, the Haryana portion of the Aravallis had more wildlife movement — despite the fact that Asola is a wildlife sanctuary and has more legal protection.”
This is stated in the study as well: “Both Gurgaon and Faridabad Aravallis were found to harbour extremely rich variety of mammals, more so than Asola WLS which is the only part of this area having formal protection as a wildlife sanctuary…”
It states that this can be attributed to “the attitude of tolerance to wildlife” amongst the local population, “general low density of people”, and “subsistence agricultural practices” prevalent in the two districts.
“The study indicated that the hotspot of wildlife in this corridor is actually between Damdama and Mangar Bani, and wildlife moves from there to Asola through the Aravalli in Faridabad. This indicates that Asola will survive as long as the Aravalli region of Gurgaon and Faridabad survives. If this finishes, Asola will automatically finish as well. It is, hence, critical to protect this region,” said Harsana.
The study reveals that 15 species of mammals were recorded in the 200 sq km area that was covered, including Gurgaon Aravallis, Mangar Bani, Faridabad Aravallis, and Asola Wildlife Sanctuary. Although the largest number of species was recorded in Faridabad Aravallis (14), followed by Gurgaon Aravallis (11), Mangar Bani (10) and Asola (9), the encounter rates in Mangar Bani and Gurgaon Aravallis were 30% higher.
Leopard species, the study found, “may be increasing” in this region, which is also indicated by “increasing trend in conflict situations and road-kills over the last 10 years”. The density of leopards and other endangered species, including striped hyena, the study finds, is approximately double in Gurgaon Aravallis of what it is in Faridabad and Asola.
Warning that highways, especially the Gurgaon-Faridabad Expressway, and increasing construction are a “major threat” to the wildlife corridor, the study states, “It is imperative to control land use change and protect the wildlife corridor and habitat from further fragmentation, construction and deforestation…”
Dr Shahabuddin reiterated this, stating that the Gurgaon-Faridabad expressway poses a major barrier to movement of wildlife between the Aravallis of Delhi and Haryana.
“Construction of expressways and highways, and planning, also needs to take into account wildlife in the city, such as by constructing underpasses or flyovers that allow at least a portion of the wildlife to cross from one part to the other and prevent complete fragmentation of wildlife populations between Aravallis of Delhi and Haryana. It is rare for such a densely populated metropolitan area to have this kind of wildlife… Community-based conservation must be looked at which doesn’t restrict what is already happening in terms of grazing and farming — it is the low carbon lifestyle of the local people that is helping to conserve the area,” she told The Indian Express.
“The government needs to understand that even if you just protect this section of the Aravalli, most species will be able to regenerate….,” she said.
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