Saturday, May 07, 2011

Leopard census to start from May 16

Leopard census to start from May 16
Times of India

The much-awaited leopard census will be held for three days from May 16. Along with this leopard census, the state forest department officials will also conduct a census of the sloth bear in the state during the same period. The 2006 census had revealed a leopard population of 1,070 in Gujarat; the number of sloth bears then was only 247.

Forest officials said the census, which is conducted every five years, was due this year. According to forest department sources, on May 16 and 17 a primary count would be taken up, while the final one would begin in the evening of 17 and end on 18.

Officials said, the 2006 census revealed that there were 360 leopards in four national parks and 22 sanctuaries, while another 563 (around 50% of the big cat's total population) were in the forest area and the remaining were in the revenue area.

Meanwhile, the 2002 data showed that there were 999 leopards in the state. Officials said that all eyes were now focused on the census as there were more leopard attacks in south Gujarat and even in Saurashtra. This was an indication that the number of leopards living close to human habitats might have increased. In 2006, the number of leopards close to villages and suburban zones was 147.

Officials of the forest department said that according to a rough estimate there was a possibility of over 30-40% rise in leopard's population in areas where humans stay. Officials said that even in Gir Sanctuary there was a sizeable increase in the leopard population. They said that this was evident from the capturing and citing of leopards in the sanctuary. The officials added that unlike the previous year, when 50 odd leopards were rescued or captured, 2010 saw a jump of over 100%. They daid that around 100 leopards were rescued or taken in captivity in 2010.

For the forest officials the recent trend of killing leopards in south Gujarat was worrisome and required intervention. Such man-animal conflicts are bound to increase as population keeps rising and moving out in the revenue area.

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