The exciting findings – leopards love the glades & feast on sambar
The cub photographs captured on the camera traps are ample proof that Horton Plains is a breeding habitat, says Dr. Enoka Kudavidanage, overjoyed over this positive aspect.
The researchers have not named the leopards yet, only numbered them. Of reams of photographs -- more than 50,000 -- about 10,00015,000 ‘captures’ were of leopards.
We have currently identified 23 individual leopards in this four-year study in Horton Plains, says Enoka, pointing out that the Spatially Explicit Capture Recapture (SECR) method is a scientific technique used to estimate the population correctly, based on recording and re-recording the presence of an animal in the given habitat. The numbers could vary as some migrate during the mating season and as such the density could be lesser than that determined by SERC. Some of the leopards may be crossing Horton Plains and not be residing there.
Leopards laze around mostly in forest glades, resting alone or sometimes as couples during the mating season and thereafter with cubs. A “cute” male haunted a particular spot at least once a week for three months, smiles Enoka.
Based on scat (droppings) analysis, the team has identified about 110 samples of common kills of leopards – mainly sambar, barking deer, hare, birds and monkeys.
An incident over which there was much joy was when they monitored a leopardess with a lump on its side and saw that the growth had disappeared after about six months, most probably healing naturally.
The ‘side-prizes’ caught on camera were the Rusty- spotted cat, the Black-naped Hare, wild boar, porcupine, Bear Monkey (the montane version of the Purple- faced Leaf Monkey), brown mongoose, barking deer, Stripe-necked Mongoose and birds in their variety including peacocks (usually seen in the Dry Zone), spurfowl (shy and hard to spot) and raptors.