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National park to count no. of animals at water holes this yr

Hindustan Times, Mumbai, 7th May, 2013

As summer gets hotter, officials from Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) are gearing up for the forest’s annual animal count.

But this year it will be different, because officials will be using the waterhole method to track animals instead of the traditional line transect method of the last two years.

The animal count will be carried out on May 25, a full moon night. In the water hole method, forest officials position themselves in ‘hides’ or machans to spot animals that come out to drink water. The exercise will target 23 natural water holes and 27 artificial ones. The park will position two people – one forest officer and one volunteer – at each water hole.

The monitoring, which begins at 6pm, will continue for 24 hours, ending on May 26.

SGNP officials said the exercise would be called ‘trend monitoring’ rather than a census as it is aimed at confirming the record of various species seen inside the park.

“We have used the line transect method in the past for animal census and the density of animals results we come up with are not entirely accurate. This won’t be a traditional census exercise but would be aimed at monitoring which species frequent specific water holes inside the park,” said Sunil Limaye, director and chief conservator of forest, SGNP.

Limaye added, “This exercise gives us a good opportunity to spot species such as the mongoose, civet cat and jungle cat, whose population is low.”

Wildlife experts said that although the water hole method is an old one, it is effective for the SGNP, as it is not as vast as other national parks and sanctuaries.

“The line transect method can be best utilised at places where the density of animals is high. At SGNP, the area available is not huge and resources are also limited, so water hole monitoring is effective,” said Vidya Athreya, wildlife ecologist, centre for wildlife studies.