Confirmed! Delhi’s Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary is home to eight leopards

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The sanctuary did not record any leopard sightings for many decades after 1940, according to the Delhi Gazetteer. In 2019, the Delhi Forest Department reported new sightings of leopard pug marks and droppings at the sanctuary.

The study conducted by the Delhi Forestry and Wildlife Department and the Bombay Natural History Society from June 2021 to June 2022 used 42 stealth infrared camera traps. It provided an estimate of leopard population size, density and spatial distribution.

The study also shed light on the presence and spatial distribution of other mammals such as striped hyena, jungle cat, golden jackal, Indian hare, Indian boar, black fallow deer, sambar deer , spotted deer and hog deer, among others.

It authenticates the presence of eight leopards which is an indicator of the sanctuary‘s thriving ecosystem. The belief that leopards can co-exist alongside human settlements fits into this study.

“Of these eight leopards, four males and one female appeared regularly in front of camera traps. They were found wandering the same tracks once and even twice during the same week on several occasions. This suggests that they have made this urban forest area their permanent home,” the report said.

Adjoining the shrine, the Sanjay settlement is a heavily human-dominated area. Despite this, leopards have been seen visiting the area from time to time. The sanctuary area bordering the Chhatarpur region and the Neeli Jheel witnessed maximum leopard sightings.

The creation of the sanctuary and the recent introduction of the Eco Task Force have reduced human activity in the sanctuary. “Once an arid area with abandoned mining pits and overgrown trees, the sanctuary has transformed into a lush forest with a myriad of flora. This subsequently led to the return of the leopard and other mammals to this area,” the report states.

The Forestry and Wildlife Department said the study will serve as a pilot study and will be used to design a program where long-term studies on different mammals will be conducted.

Considering the leopard as an umbrella species, the study may be useful in designing various conservation management plans for other associated species with the aim of transforming the sanctuary into a true urban wildlife refuge, he said.

The researchers said the Sariska-Delhi Wildlife Corridor is still functional and restoration programs at the sanctuary have provided safe habitat for leopards and their associated species.

It has been found that most leopards share their home ranges with each other. Studies have suggested that a leopard’s home range is largely dependent on prey availability and can vary between nine and 451 square kilometers.

The Asola leopards share an area of ​​only 32.71 km² and probably also occupy the adjacent forest patches in the border district of Faridabad.

Leopard population density is 3.03 in Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh; 3.1 in Sariska Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan; 2.8 in Dhachigam National Park, Jammu-Kashmir; 12.04 in the Achanakmar Tiger Reserve in Chhattisgarh; and 1:41 p.m. in Mudumalayi Tiger Reserve, Tamil Nadu.

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