Vadodara: If you venture into the forests of Ratanmahal and Jambughoda shrines and a striped hyena crosses your path, don’t be surprised. A census conducted by the forestry department recently revealed that the number of striped hyenas has increased over the past year.
With minimal human disturbance due to Covid restrictions, this shy creature has thrived in the jungle and its outskirts. This is good news for wildlife lovers as striped hyenas have been classified as a “near threatened” species globally by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
As of May 2019, only 77 hyenas were spotted in Jambughoda, Shivrajpur and Kanjeta and by 2020 their number has risen to 87. But this year’s census revealed that the striped hyena population has grown to 123.
“Hyenas are very shy creatures and they don’t like to be disturbed by humans. In fact, whenever they see a human, including a child, hyenas run away, ”said Baldevsinh Waghela, Division Forestry Officer (DFO), Wildlife, Vadodara.
“Over the past year, human disturbance has been minimal as tourist traffic has dropped dramatically due to the pandemic. There was a complete lockdown for almost three months last year and after that too few people showed up in or around the sanctuaries for wildlife tours, ”Waghela told TOI.
“Villagers usually get rid of dead cattle or any other animal on the outskirts of their village. Hyenas feed mainly on dead animals, so they venture to the outskirts of villages to eat the carcasses. Before the pandemic, they were bothered by the constant influx of tourists and often fled without having adequate food, ”Waghela added.
But since March of last year, striped hyenas which are protected under Schedule III of the 1972 Wildlife Protection Act, have been given plentiful food without any fear of human presence, including locals. .
“Hyenas usually venture out at night and are frightened by vehicle headlights and engine noise. There was virtually no disruption to the movement of vehicles for many months and it allowed them to run freely. This clubbed with great availability of food must have resulted in an increase in their population, ”Waghela said.
The Forestry Department conducted the wildlife census on May 29-30 this year in Jambughoda, Shivrajpur and Kanjeta.