Saturday, May 7, 2011

Foresters to have a field day counting leopards.

AHMEDABAD: Sugar cane fields are the place to be if you are hunting for leopards. Foresters who are gearing up for the three-day leopard census starting from May 16 said that the sugar cane fields will be the main area of focus outside the protected forest areas. Leopards, they said, seem to have developed a liking for these fields.
Leopard population in Gujarat is the fourth largest in the country. Additional principal chief conservator of forest H S Singh said that the leopards in Gujarat have moved out and are making the sugar cane fields their home because of increasing grazing pressure on the forest area. Because of the isolation, these fields have turned into their favourite haunt and breeding ground.
Singh said that there are about 12,000 Asian leopards in the country. Of these, Uttarakhand has the maximum population of over 2,100 leopards followed by Madhya Pradesh (2,000 leopards).
He said that Gujarat, which has the population of 1,070 leopards as per the 2006 census, is next to Chattisgarh which has the leopard population of 1,500.
In the state, leopard population is spread in 17 districts. Singh said apart from the sugar cane fields, granite rock mines in Devgadhbaria and Mandvi in south Gujarat are also major breeding grounds of leopards.
Forest officials said that the tried and tested method of direct sighting will be followed in the 2011 census. They said that in the direct sighting an animal would be sighted and its height, weight, length would be recorded and also some unique identification marks would be noted on paper. However, this will be only for one leopard if it is found in a group.
Officials said there is a possibility that the same group could move from one territory to another and hence, these marking would help them eliminate duplication.
The parameters set aside for the census include the ear and nose, the face mark, the tail and the size of the leopard apart from other details. Apart from these, pug mark method will also be employed considering the fact that leopard is a fast moving animal. The officials will also depend heavily on the information provided by the villagers and those working in the fields.


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