The patchy grasslands of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) are undergoing a makeover to have more palatable grass for the forest’s large spotted-deer population. Indigenous grass is being transplanted from the forest to these grassy patches inside the national park as part of the Meadows Development Project.
Wildlife experts believe improving the grasslands will ensure the number of herbivores go up, in effect, increasing the prey base of leopards, which could lead to mitigating the man-animal conflict.
For the past two months, officials have been surveying the park to identify areas where these patchy grasslands exist. “ We have identified areas that naturally support grass and have no trees growing; places frequented by the spotted deer. The idea is to remove weeds and promote natural growth of palatable grass and, in some cases, transplant palatable grass from other areas of the park,” said Vikas Gupta, chief conservator of forests, SGNP.
Officials peg the number of spotted deers at thousands, but there has been no population estimation done for herbivores in the national park.
The officials have identified the area near Mafco factory, another alongside Tulsi lake and the third area at Manpada in the Yeoor range to develop the meadows.
To ensure better supply of more indigenous species, the officials have identified moong, tumeric and soyabean plants and have planted them in the nursery.
“The SGNP terrain is hilly and there are few natural grasslands for spotted deers to graze on except near Vihar and Tulsi lakes. These spotted deers are the natural prey for the leopards. By developing grasslands, the natural prey base of leopards will bounce back. In the larger sense, if leopards have lot of prey inside the park, they may not feel the need to venture into the surrounding areas to find easy preys such as dogs,” said wildlife expert Krishna Tiwari.