Leopard makes Yamuna Biodiversity park home in Delhi

NEW DELHI,Nov23: Delhi may be an urban jungle but, amazingly, it still has space for wild predators. A leopard was caught on camera in the capital for the first time on Monday night, that too far away from the place where another spotted cat’s pugmarks were seen last year.

The leopard was clicked at the Yamuna Biodiversity Park (YBP) in north Delhi and officials say it may have become a `resident’ as its pugmarks have been regularly seen for two weeks. The animal was finally captured on camera by scientists and support staff when it was spotted while they were The `Delhi leopard’ is a male installing more surveillance devices. “This is a good sign and we suspect it may have become a resident animal with the habitat here more conducive. From early sightings, it appears to be a male leopard,” said Faiyaz Khudsar, scientist in charge at YBP . Khudsar said officials had placed loose mud traps all over the biodiversity park to find the animal and even made a cast of the pugmark. “The marks confirmed it was a leopard, as did the stride measurement.On Monday night, when we were trying to install more traps, we spotted the animal and it stayed there for close to an hour,” Khudsar said.

Leopard pugmarks were found last year at Asola Wildlife Sanctuary and a spotting was even reported in Usmanpur at the end of December 2015. To capture leopard and hyena sightings, several camera traps were also set up in Bandhwari and Mangar areas near Gurgaon.

Experts say the number of sightings of the leopard at YBP may mean it has decided to stay here for the time being.

“Yamuna Biodiversity Park now has all four trophic levels with the addition of a top carnivore like the leopard. This shows that through DDA’s assistance, the ecosystem here is now is fully func tional and it appears that the animal has become a resident due to the suitable habitat available to it. We suspect a female leopard may also join soon,” said C R Babu, professor emeritus, Delhi University and head of the Centre for Environmental Management of Degraded Ecosystems.

Experts at the park suspect it may have walked down the river plain from Kalesar in Haryana. “Leopards are known to travel as far as 700km. The nearest forest patch from here is Kalesar and it is possible it may have come down the river corridor from there,” said Babu.

 Leopards are known to feed on wild boar, pigs, dogs, goats and hare, among other species. Currently the animal is in phase-II of the biodiversity park which is spread across 200 sq metres. While villagers near the DDA-run biodiversity park have expressed fear, experts say there is no need to worry at the moment.
“Leopards have always lived close to people because they are a very adaptable species. Since they are such masters of camouflage, it is easy for them to use even thickets to remain unseen by people.However, it is important that large scale awareness activities are initiated and interdepartment coordination is carried out so that any untoward incidence is avoided,” said Vidya Athreya, wildlife biologist specialising in leopards and in-charge of the Waghoba project in Maharashtra. Officials at the park also say security has been increased, but the chances of the leopard straying out are bleak. A message has also been sent to the lieutenant governor regarding the sighting.
“Around 90% of the time, leopards will try to avoid human activity and therefore it is difficult to spot them.It is plausible that it may decide to reside there if it gets sufficient water during the day and small animals to prey on. People should not panic,” said Bilal Habib, wildlife biologist, Wildlife Institute of India.
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