Welcoming reports of a new leopard sighting in the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary, several environmental experts said efforts to naturally rejuvenate degraded tracts of the capital, such as planting native species of trees and shrubs, are bearing fruit, noting that the increase in sightings is unlikely to translate into human-animal conflict in the city.
CR Babu, director of the Center for Environmental Management of Degraded Ecosystems Delhi (CEMDE), which has worked in DDA’s seven biodiversity parks, said leopards have always strayed in Delhi. “But the occurrence is becoming more frequent due to the better habitats that now exist in Delhi, especially towards the Aravallis. to attract leopards.The Tilpath Valley Biodiversity Park and Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary create this vast expanse, where leopards can live without human interference…Even though the leopard strays into nearby areas , it is unlikely to harm humans,” Babu said, adding that leopard pugmarks have also been recorded in Tilpath Valley, which is next to Asola Bhatti. reported a leopard sighting in the Tilpath Valley.
Last year, a leopard was captured by multiple cameras in Najafgarh, South West Delhi, leading to cages being set up to catch the animal, but to no avail.
A similar exercise was also undertaken in 2016 to trap a leopard that had reached the Yamuna Biodiversity Park (YBP). The state forest and wildlife department eventually trapped the animal, which was later released into the Shivaliks.
Faiyaz Khudsar, lead scientist at YBP, said Delhi needed to learn from the 2016 experience, saying the mortality figures for big cats and leopards in particular were extremely low. “The mortality rate from leopards or big cats is much lower than from snakes, which are also found in abundance in Delhi. We have to recognize the fact that the best carnivores are perhaps sighted in the Delhi Biodiversity Parks or the Asola Bhatti Sanctuary and the habitat is now conducive enough to support them. Sending them back is not necessary, nor a solution,” he said.
Sohail Madan, who has been following the movement of leopards at Asola Bhatti Sanctuary for several years, said the leopards are “in their space”, noting that they are very unlikely to venture out as there are enough food and water in the sanctuary. . “In the past, we saw leopards coming to the sanctuary but leaving. Over the years, the area has been revitalized in such a way that there is an adequate prey base, enough herbivores, and enough watering holes for a leopard to have everything it needs to survive and thrive. It is in a safe habitat and quite far from the human population,” Madan said.
Leopards are known to be generalist feeders, meaning they can feed on stray dogs, rats, other smaller mammals, slightly larger animals like deer, and even scavenge trash to survive. . They are also known to avoid human habitats in general.
Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder of the NGO Wildlife SOS, which is often involved in wildlife rescue in NCR Delhi and helped the local forestry department capture a leopard in 2016, said the increase in observations makes a green corridor a necessity. “The lower the fragmentation, the easier it is for the leopard to move from one safe habitat to another, without disturbing or venturing into human habitats. This should be the goal moving forward” , did he declare.
Delhi and Haryana State Forest Departments have been working to create safe leopard passage through the Gurugram-Faridabad Highway (Pali Highway) since last year after a leopard fatality was reported. was reported on the road in June last year. In 2020, a nine-year-old leopard died on the same road after being hit by a heavy vehicle. In 2019, an 18-month-old leopard was found dead after it was allegedly hit by a truck.
Forestry officials said the green corridor, when ready, will create a safe passage for leopards under the Pali Road.