Leopard census begins in state
Times of India
The much-awaited three-day leopard and sloth bear census kicked off on Monday. The census began in 17 districts simultaneously across Gujarat. The last census which was conducted in the year 2006 had shown a population of 1,070 leopards in the state.
The forest department officials said that about 5,000 volunteers and foresters have been roped in for census, which is conducted once in every five years.
The census, said forest officials, will have two different phases of counting the big cats - the first which began on Monday would be the preliminary count, while the final count will begin from Tuesday evening and end on Wednesday.
In-charge principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife) H S Singh said that the count will be concluded within a week and the data will be sent to the state government for final approval.
The officials said that leopards being shy animals, they would be in their hideouts which make direct sighting method partially ineffective. The state forest department officials have decided that they will use the pug marks method, along with the direct sighting method.
Forest officials involved in the census said: "The enumerators who go out in the field for census will carry plaster of paris (POP). When the enumerator spots a leopard pug mark, an impression is taken with the POP. These pugmarks would then be analysed by experts who would be heading that team."
They said that information received from the local residents would also be considered by the enumerators while estimating the count.
The forest officials said the census in 2006 had revealed a leopard population of 1,070 in Gujarat; the number of sloth bears then was 247.
The officials said, the 2006 census revealed that there were 360 leopards in four national parks and 22 sanctuaries, while another 563 were in the forest areas and the 147 remaining were living in close proximity to human settlements.
The 2006 census had revealed an increase of 71 leopards as compared to the 2002 census. In 2002 the number reported was 999 leopards in the state.
They said that all eyes were now trained on the census as there has been more number of leopard attacks reported in south Gujarat and in Saurashtra. "This is an indication that the number of leopards living close to human habitats might have increased in later years," said a forest official.
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