Corbett May 31 : Experts at the Corbett National Reserve in India's northern Uttarakhand state are carrying out a census on the number of leopards in the area, using the pugmark technique.
Every individual animal species have a distinct pugmark, and as such, this method is used for identification. Wildlife conservationists are known to catalogue pugmarks in the areas that they operate in.
Pugmarks are also used for tracking rogue animals that pose a danger to mankind or even to themselves. It is possible to make an accurate identification of species, sex, age and physical condition of an animal by those trained in the field.
In India, 'Pugmark Tracking' involves the collection of pugmark tracings and plaster casts from the field and analysis of these separately for individual male, female, and cub of tiger and leopard, and their diagnostic track dimensions and spatial distribution.
As far as the leopard census in Corbett is concerned, 124 experts from across the globe have been invited to carry out the exercise in the entire region from May 28 to June 3.
According to officials, many tourists have expressed an interest to be a part of the census, and permission has been granted to them.
"We have started the leopard census here. During the first two days, the concentration is on finding the pugmarks. We are also tracking and monitoring the movements of the leopards and their habitat," said D.S. Rawat, the warden of the Corbett National Park.
Rawat further told reporters that the process begins with the counting of pug marks which, are then passed through a process of scanning to differentiate the male leopard from the female one.
Officials said that after the completion of the census, the results would be examined and made available to the concerned authorities and the general public by the end of the June. A census of deer and bears is also being conducted in the reserve.
According to the 2005 census, there were only 98 leopards in the reserve. The national park has also been given the status of a tiger reserve.
Tigers (Panthera tigris) and Leopards (Panthera pardus) are listed on Appendix I of the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) thereby prohibiting all international trade.
Indian and Chinese laws do not allow the killing, smuggling, buying or selling of tiger or leopard parts.
According to official records of seizures gathered by the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) between September 2005 and now, there have been 27 tiger skins, 199 leopard skins and 254 otter skins seized in India and Nepal. This represents only a fraction of the total number of tigers and leopards killed by poachers during the period.