On hyenas' trail: Plan for a conservation zone takes shape in Delhi

Delhi: 16 April, 2022 (Times of India)


NEW DELHI: In light of increased sightings of the striped hyena at Asola Wildlife Sanctuary, foresters are exploring the possibility of developing a conservation zone for the species in the city.
According to forest officials, the southern ridge, which surrounds Ayanagar, Mandi and Jaunapur areas, is connected through a green corridor with Asola forest. The area, they added, has a high concentration of hyenas.

"Their numbers are unknown so far, but the forest department plans to hold a census in all city forests with the help of Wildlife Institute of India (WII). Based on the data, we will work on developing a conservation zone for hyenas," said a forest official.

The official added that the plan as of now is not just on paper, but in its initial phase. However, it will be worked upon once the census is completed.

"We need to know their behavioural patterns, the areas they cover and the availability of food. Therefore, data from the census will be crucial in our plans for a conservation zone," he said.

The official added that the species have an important role in eco-system and the food chain. "Animals in the forest die naturally and due to hunting too. As hyenas scavenge the carcasses, they help in maintaining hygiene and the health of the forest," he said.

According to experts, there are at least three hyenas in Asola Wildlife Sanctuary alone, though the number could be higher.

"Based on the camera traps and other observations, we have noticed that the hyenas are following the trails of leopards. As the leopard hunts, the hyenas would be getting enough to scavenge and eat. The area is promising for the future of hyenas, and their presence indicates that of other species of carnivores and their prey as well," said Sohail Madan from Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).

Some experts, however, pointed out that a larger conservation plan is needed that requires inter-state cooperation.

"The species is scattered over a very large area in the region. For its conservation, we cannot focus on Delhi alone. Like leopards, hyenas also need seamless connectivity from Asola to Damdama and other parts of the city, including areas towards Palwal, Manesar, which are bisected by peripheral roads. Since Asola is the northern-most end of the entire patch and it's protected, hyenas seem to be concentrated there. But in the long term, their sustenance will be difficult there alone. All patches with rich biodiversity in the entire NCR need to be connected through green corridors. Only then can a conservation plan work," said wildlife biologist Sumit Dookia.