Annual wildlife census on Buddha Purnima hits COVID hurdle

Though there are fresh guidelines issued for different forest zones by the government, the department has decided against conducting the animal enumeration exercise, he said.

The exercise is carried on Buddha Purnima night, which falls on May 7 this year, when it is easier to spot animals.

"The enumeration happens in Gautala Autramghat wildlife sanctuary spread across Aurangabad and Jalgaon districts, and in Yedsi and Ramling wildlife sanctury in Osmanabad in Marathwada region besides in other forest areas of the state," said Deputy Conservator of Forest, Aurangabad, Raosaheb Kale.

He said social distancing was the main concern against conducting the Census this year.

"We have 'machans' or makeshift shelters perched near every water body in forests. Two to three people sit atop machans for a period of 24 hours and record their observations. There is a chance of (coronavirus) transmission among them. It may also prove dangerous for animals. This time this census is cancelled due to the Covid 19 pandemic," he said.

Kale said that counting of animals is usually on round the year through trap cameras placed inside forests.

Environmental expert Kishor Pathak said that forest department generally involves volunteers in animal Census which can result into crowding.

"Forest officials can make observations by themselves by sitting atop machans and through trap cameras," he said.

However, an activist from Amravati said that the move was wrong.

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