By Kushagra Dixit
New Delhi, March 7 (IANS) Although a concrete jungle that has lost several animal species over time, the forests of the national capital still possess at least six different kinds of wild animals that have manages to survive — and their breeding population gives hope that Delhi’s wildlife may soon revive.
According to the recent images obtained by the camera traps at Yamuna Biodiversity Park (YBP) and other forests, there is a healthy breeding population of mammals like porcupines, wild pigs, jungle cats, civets, Indian hare, hyenas and jackals.
One of the rare and least known mammals, the pangoline was last spotted in Delhi in 2011, though experts speculate about its presence. The national capital is also home to 13 species of snakes as well as monitor lizards.
The recently spotted barking deer, the first such sighting of the present century, is further indication that the capital’s forests are reviving.
Is Delhi ready for a breeding population of leopards to return? Not a distant dream, experts say.
Prof C.R. Babu, whose ecological restoration at the YBP — his brainchild — is bringing life back to Delhi’s jungles, believes fixing some of the green corridors here could help speed up the wildlife revival.
“Over years of efforts, Delhi’s forests now have enough prey… it has a breeding population of nilgai (blue bull), wild pigs, hare and other prey animals… Once the green corridors are restored, the leopards will surely be back in Delhi and, who knows, maybe even tigers,” Babu told IANS.
Delhi has 20.22 per cent of its total area under green cover, of which 188.77 square km is forest cover.
Meanwhile, the presence of a leopard with cubs is being speculated at the Asola Wildlife Sanctuary here, two months after a leopard roamed in the YBP for 21 days, seen by conservationists as a sign of revival.
Faiyaz A. Khudsar, the scientist in-charge of the YBP, said that at least four species of animals, including a lizard, a snake and two species of birds, have been re-discovered within the last one year.
“The black eagle has been found in Delhi after 100 years, the sea-boldie smooth water snake was spotted after 70 years, the Indian pitta (bird) was spotted after about 60 years and the fan-throated lizard was spotted here after 22 years,” Khudsar told IANS.
He pointed towards flocks of migratory birds, including northern shovelers, tufted ducks, darters (snakebirds), northern pintails, red-crested poachards and great cormorants — active over seven acres of revived wetland at YBP. Khudsar explained how the revival of such water bodies is bringing these European and Russian guests back to the national capital.
“These birds had stopped coming to Delhi… some species still stay away but slowly, with conservation and restoration of bio-diversity parks in Delhi, they will visit again,” Khudsar said.
Khudsar believes that the 300 acres of the second phase of the YBP, which is still under restoration, could help bring back more of Delhi’s glorious wildlife past.
However, the list of what Delhi has lost over a period of time is longer and the loss is grave.
According to the records from the Gazetteer, Delhi, which by the early 20th century was home to Asiatic lions, has been stripped of six species of vultures, two species of deer, four species of antelopes, a breeding population of leopards, caracals, tigers, smooth-coated otters, Indian foxes and wolves.
Due to the degradation of the Yamuna river, Delhi has lost the nub-nosed or marsh crocodile (last seen in 1976) and the long-snouted crocodile (last seen in 1978).
For the past two decades, Delhi has also missed the Siberian cranes and the Demoiselle cranes.
Delhi has nine species of bats, including the greater false vampire, but due to habitat loss only a limited population of these pollinating mammals survives.
Experts believe that expansion of invasive plant species like prosopis Juliflora is one of the major reasons behind the capital’s vanishing wildlife.
“Invasive plants and shrubs, which now dominate more than 7,000 hectares of the Delhi ridge, have killed the native species due to which the population of the herbivores like chowsinghas, chinkaras, sambar and blackbuck dropped, which in turn saw a dip in the population of carnivores and birds,” Khudsar explained.
According to a recent report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), invasive alien species are on the rise worldwide and show no sign of slowing down.
(Kushagra Dixit can be contacted at [email protected])