Forest department officials say some leopards may have died naturally and some are untraceable
MUMBAI, Monday, October 30, 2006
The panther population at Sanjay Gandhi National Park is on an alarming decline according to the latest annual census figures. There are only 18 panthers left in the park, compared to 20 last year. In 2002, the number stood at 42.
However, deputy conservator of forests at the park, Dr P T Munde, refused to acknowledge that the numbers are shrinking.
“Some may have died naturally and some are untraceable since this is not a human census where a headcount is possible,” he said.
The forest department has so far trapped 11 man-eating panthers, mostly from Powai and Aarey colony,after public outrage, said a forest department official. The animals are still caged and have not been released into the park.
The 2003 census revealed that the number of panthers in national park and Tungareshwar was 38, followed by 33 in 2004.
In contrast, the number of deer at the national park has increased significantly, according to census figures. There are 32 this year, as opposed to 29 in 2005 and 23 in 2004. However, the number was 79 in 2003.
In the case of chital or axis deer, the number has gone up to 307 from 272 last year. There has been a substantial increase since the previous years — 2001(126), 2002 (162), 2003 (167) and 2004 (273).
The number of monkeys at the national park, too, has reduced to 745 from 819 in 2005.
The numbers for wildcats and foxes is still being processed. Cats were down to 4 in 2005 from 10 in 2004, while the census number for foxes for 2005 is missing.
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