The Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) has signed an MOU with Wildlife Conservation Society-India (WCS) to radio collar leopards. It will be a two-year project to understand how the leopards use the landscape in and around the park.
“I am very happy to see this project come through as it will be the first time a leopard will be collared in this landscape. The work is also part of our mandate to have science-based management of the national park, which is a very important asset to the residents of Mumbai,” said Anwar Ahmed, director, SGNP.
The study will help obtain scientific inputs for the management of leopards. According to a release issued by SGNP, camera trapping and collaring are two tools that allow a greater understanding of animals like leopards, who are known to be secretive in nature. The park has already been conducting camera trapping activity for the last three years.
“That the park is carrying out this study is very good and will provide very good information on urban carnivores. The collars work by sending a signal to a satellite, which obtains the time and date the signal is sent from the collar and then the information is transmitted back to the researchers who can investigate where the animal is and what it is doing. This will be of great importance to see how they are using this landscape,” said Vidya Athreya, a biologist with WCS.
In 2009, leopards from Ahmednagar division were collared and one of them, Ajoba, was observed to have walked 125 kms from Malshej Ghats to Mumbai.
Five leopards are set to be collared as part of the project, which will cost around Rs 55 lakh. “The equipment needed for the project are very expensive. Each collar costs around Rs 3 lakh. While three-fourth of the cost will be borne by the state forest department, we will be putting in the rest of the funds,” added Athreya.
The radio collars weigh around 500 grams and are usually known to work up to a year. “When we last radio collared six leopards and one tigress in 2009 in Ahmednagar, we got readings for one day to a year. While some of our collars gave us readings for a whole year, some stopped working after just one day,” said Athreya.
SGNP and WCS are waiting for clearances from the central government along with other permissions and is likely to begin the project in four months.