A FOREST department survey has found that there are 47 leopards in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) and its surrounding areas, including Aarey, Bombay Veterinary College, IIT Bombay, Ghodbunder village and Nagla block. Accordingly, the 2018 survey also found that of these 47, 22 camera-trapped sightings are fresh.
The 2017 survey had confirmed the presence of 41 leopards, which was an increase of six sightings from 2016. Of the 22 new sightings, 19 are young leopards. Of the total 47 sightings, 17 are of male, 27 female, while the gender of three leopards could not be established.
Surveyors also found eight cubs in the 2018 survey. The camera trappings were compared to those collected since 2011, showing that 25 matched with 2015 and 2017 surveys with trappings of two leopards found in the 2011 database.
Conservationists said migration, natural death, death due to animal conflict, among others, could be reasons behind the difference in leopard sightings every year. The 2017 survey had recorded the presence of seven cubs. However, cubs are not included in results, as their survival rate is low. The 2018 survey also found six leopards dispersing into other areas.
In one instance, a leopard tagged as L59, which was found travelling in Malad area of SGNP in 2017, was camera-trapped in Kaman-Bhiwandi Road in 2018. It was found to be travelling to Tungeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, through Ghodbunder road, Vasai creek, Diva-Kaman-Vasai railroad and was found dead on Bhiwandi road.
“It is important for the younger and mostly male leopards to disperse to other areas to avoid inbreeding. Also, every leopard has its own territory, so dispersing is also a search for territory,” stated Nikit Surve, research consultant, Wildlife Conservation Society.