Haryana’s Deforested Aravallis, Thought To Be an “Ecological Desert,” Are Still Home to Much Wildlife: Report
Unprotected, deforested regions in Haryana’s Aravallis, spread across Delhi, Gurugram, and Faridabad, are home to many wildlife species, an ecological survey has found — much to the surprise of the researchers.
“Even biologists consider the Haryana-Aravallis as an ecological desert. … We were surprised to see that so many species still exist in these forest remnants [here] — especially rare species of the Aravallis such as honey-badger, Indian fox, ruddy mongoose, hyena, and grey langur,” Ghazala Shahabuddin, an ecologist and senior fellow at the Centre for Ecology Development and Research (CEDAR), told Mongabay-India.
The survey found healthy populations of striped hyenas, leopards, black-naped hares, Indian crested porcupines, small Indian mongooses, and golden jackals in the region — but the densities of the rarer species were found to be much less.
Reported to be the first detailed record of ecological characteristics and wildlife presence in the region, the survey was conducted by a group of wildlife researchers, supported and funded by CEDAR, an India-based non-profit, and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). It was conducted over the course of 2019 and 2020 in four delineated zones: Gurgaon Aravallis, Mangar Bani, Faridabad Aravallis, and Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary.
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However, with a significant portion of the biodiversity living in non-protected forest areas, the survey called for immediate reclassification of the land to ensure wildlife can continue to thrive in the region.
“It is imperative to control land-use change and protect this wildlife corridor and habitat from further fragmentation, construction, and deforestation, given the range of species that are found here as well as the potential of several animal populations to recover to healthy levels,” Sunil Harsana, an environmentalist whose work focuses on Haryana’s Aravallis, told the Times of India.
The protection of this important wildlife corridor becomes even more urgent due to the environmental stress caused by its proximity to densely populated urban areas, excessive deforestation on account of mining, and real estate encroachments, which has led to the loss of more than 10,000 acres of green cover in the area between 2012 to 2020.
“It is tragic that in the fragile landscape of the Aravallis, ecological habitats of species are scarce and declining rapidly,” Paridhi Jain, who had authored a 2017 study by the WWF on biodiversity in the Haryana-Aravallis and now works with the United Nations Development Program, told Mongabay-India.