NEW DELHI: Improvement in Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary (ABWS) habitat could be helping species like the golden jackal thrive, findings of an ongoing animal census at the sanctuary have revealed, after the population of the golden jackal has been found to have more than doubled since 2014 in the area. The long-term census, which began in 2014 — carried out by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) — has so far recorded 27 species, including rare sightings of striped hyena and common leopard.
Officials said the census was started to keep track of the numbers of species to gauge which areas needed to be improved upon. Since 2014, more than 250 field surveys have been conducted seasonally, both during day and night, along a permanent 8km transect identified. Surveys were also conducted around 28 random areas during this period, with other sightings like jungle cats, porcupines, and ruddy mongoose also recorded the society.
“Wildlife is the product of the land, and the abundance and well-being of any animal population may be used as an indication of the productivity of it. The findings of the census so far have indicated that the habitat is improving, as we are also recording a number of rare animals like the hyena and leopard,” said Sohail Madan, center manager of BNHS at Asola.
Madan said the increase in the golden jackal population around the 8km stretch, however, is the most significant change, with numbers up from around 8 to 19. BNHS has also started a golden jackal safari during this period.
“The sightings of adults and young golden jackals are quite a common occurrence now. The scat investigation of jackal has revealed that Ziziphus jujube (jhad ber) makes up a major portion of their diet, especially in young adults, as the fruiting time coincides with their period of attaining maturity from pup stage. Their prey base also includes rodents and hares. They are a popular tourist attraction during our jackal safaris,” said Madan.
Other sightings made include jungle cats, which officials say happened both at night and day time, with more numbers recorded in the winter. Ruddy Mongoose, porcupines and murids have also been recorded during this period.
C R Babu, professor emeritus at DU and head of the center for environmental management of degraded ecosystems (CEMDE), said the habitat in Asola has seen steady improvement over the years with the local eco-task force also putting in tremendous efforts. “The biodiversity is getting enriched and the eco-task force is also preventing grazing. More herbivores will come and this then brings in more jackals to feed on animals like hare and rodents,” said Babu.
Faiyaz Khudsar, scientist-in-charge at the Yamuna Biodiversity Park (YBP) said golden jackals are highly adaptive in nature and could also be feeding on leftovers that are dumped nearby. “The rodent population and meat from dumped waste could be something they could be thriving on. They are generalist feeders, meaning they can adapt to their surroundings and don’t require a specific animal to feed on,” he said.