According to Surve, the study also highlighted the disturbance for wildlife that was much higher compared to Sanjay Gandhi National Park
A first-ever study conducted at the 85 sq km Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary (TWLS) has not only confirmed the presence of five leopards but has also highlighted how this protected area is facing neglect, leading to several unauthorised activities flourishing inside.
The sanctuary is located in the Vasai and Bhiwandi Talukas of Palghar and Thane district respectively and is being regarded as an extremely vital wildlife corridor between Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) and Tansa wildlife sanctuary. A detailed study on different aspects of the ecology of leopards was carried out by Nikit Surve, a Research associate from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), between February 2016 and July 2016 in collaboration with SGNP.
“We were able to identify two males, two females, and the sex of one individual could not be confirmed. Camera traps were deployed at 29 locations in a systematic manner to capture images of leopards,” shared Surve who added that one of the key findings was also the lack of herbivore population inside TLWS.
According to Surve, the study also highlighted the disturbance for wildlife that was much higher compared to SGNP. The density of people around TWLS is about one tenth than that of around SGNP yet the study showed that TWLS has much less wild herbivore and leopard presence compared to SGNP.
The study also revealed that there was a lot of pressure from humans in this sanctuary. “The sanctuary is plagued by encroachments for agriculture. On a couple of occasions, we also found illegal activities like tree felling, illicit alcohol breweries and signs of hunting being carried out. However, it is heartening that the forest department took this report positively and has even begun taking steps to improve the situation,” said Surve.
Naturalist Krishna Tiwari said that there has to be an action plan prepared including habitat restoration so that herbivore population can be increased in order to ensure there is sufficient prey base for leopards.
Chief Conservator of Forest (CCF) and Director of SGNP Anwar Ahmed said that the study was important as it reveals the data of five leopards at Tungareshwar. The forest department will take more conservation measures in the coming time.
- TWLS was declared as a Protected Area on October 24, 2003 and was brought under the administrative control of Sanjay Gandhi National Park Division.
- TWLS consist of the catchments of Pelhar Dam and Juchandra MI Tank which supply water to the urban areas of Vasai and Nallasopara Municipal Corporation