• The monsoon has cast its green spell on the dry deciduous forest of Jhalana forest reserve, barely a 15-20 minute drive East of the Pink City.
  • The Jhalana forest reserve is the pilot project of the Rajasthan Government’s Project Leopard, and is the first of its kind in India.
  • It was open to the public for leopard safaris on May 15, 2017.
  • When Project Leopard was announced in the 2017-2018 budget session, it comprised eight leopard sanctuaries.
  • The leopard is an endangered animal under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972.
  • Out of the three chosen for pilot projects, namely Jhalana (Jaipur), Jaisamand sanctuary (Udaipur) and Kumbhalgarh-Raoli Todgarh sanctuary (Ajmer-Udaipur), only Jhalana was implemented.
  • On World Animal Day on October 4, it was officially launched by the then Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje
  • The aim is to protect the leopard, its habitat and reduce human-animal conflict.
  • With an official estimate of 25-30 leopards in Jhalana, it is rapidly gaining popularity due to regular leopard sightings.
  • Though the leopard is an elusive and solitary animal, that usually roams a large area, it’s incredible that Jhalana has such a high density in a small area.
  • We got to spot numerous birds, including a pair of brownish spotted owls.
  • It was visually pleasing to see the bluish Eurasian roller, Indian pitta with its nine colours, jungle francolin, grey-headed lapwing, gregarious jungle babbler, Brahminy starling, grey wagtail and green bee-eater among many others.
  • The Indian hoopoe, once common in human habitats, had to make evolutionary changes to its lifestyle and move to forests, as excessive use of pesticide has shrunk its food base in urban areas.
  • Driving through the waterholes, we saw the shikra, a raptor perched on a tree branch nearby munching on its prey. Known to kill prey with great speed and accuracy, it has inspired the Indian Navy to name one of its helicopter bases INS Shikra.
  • Sambhar is the favourite of leopards, but its absence here makes them do with peafowl that are found in abundance.
  • Their dietary spectrum includes peafowl, blue bull, langurs, hares and squirrels.
  • A peafowl weighing four to five kilograms could mitigate a leopard’s hunger for two to three days.