December 29, 2023: In a remarkable turn of events, the verdant expanse of Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) in Mumbai, often hailed as the city’s haven of nature, recently revealed a fascinating tapestry of biodiversity. The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), a leading nature conservation NGO headquartered in Mumbai, orchestrated a comprehensive Bird Count at SGNP in December, leading to intriguing discoveries that underscore the delicate balance between urban development and the imperative to protect the natural world.
The star of this ecological revelation was the Grey Francolin (Ortygornis pondicerianus), a ground-dwelling bird native to India celebrated for its unique calls and cryptic plumage. The SGNP Bird Monitoring Programme, a citizen science initiative coordinated by Dr Raju Kasambe and Asif N. Khan from the BNHS, has been diligently conducting monthly bird counts since February 2021 at various SGNP and Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary locations.
During the December Bird Count, the Shilonda Transect at SGNP resonated with the distinctive calls of the Grey Francolin, capturing the attention of bird enthusiasts and volunteers alike. Known for its ground-dwelling habits and intricate plumage, the Grey Francolin added a vibrant note to the rich avian tapestry of the park. The unexpected highlight, however, was the rare sighting of a leopard near Jambhumaal, captured in a compelling photograph by volunteer Siddharth Jain.
Kishore Rithe, Director of BNHS, emphasized the significance of these findings, shedding light on the thriving biodiversity within urban green spaces. Rithe stressed the need for a delicate equilibrium between urban development and nature conservation, calling upon BNHS members, bird watchers, and concerned citizens to actively participate in citizen science initiatives. According to Rithe, collective efforts play a pivotal role in preserving and protecting the diverse wildlife that inhabits such vital ecosystems.
The SGNP Bird Monitoring Programme, a beacon of community-driven conservation, exemplifies the power of citizen science in contributing crucial data to ongoing conservation efforts. The unexpected discovery of the Grey Francolin and the rare leopard sighting serve as poignant reminders of the importance of monitoring programs in understanding and safeguarding the diverse wildlife that thrives in unexpected corners of urban green spaces like SGNP.
As we delve deeper into the intricate ecosystems of urban oases, the Grey Francolin’s calls echo a resilient harmony, and the leopard’s stealthy presence serves as a testament to the untamed beauty nestled within the heart of Mumbai. The SGNP Bird Monitoring Programme stands as a testament to the potential for coexistence between urban development and nature, urging us to appreciate and preserve the delicate balance that makes places like SGNP truly extraordinary.