The Indian leopard is one of the big cats present in the Indian subcontinent, apart from the Asiatic lion, Bengal tiger, Snow Leopard and Clouded Leopard. In 2014, a national census of leopards around tiger habitats was carried out in India. 7,910 individuals were estimated in surveyed areas and a national total of 12,000-14,000 speculated.
Jhalana was once popular among Jaipur royals for hunting tigers and leopards. After hunting was banned, the local wildlife population revived, and the leopard made its niche as the apex predator of Jhalana. In 2017, with the inception of Project Leopard, Jhalana was officially declared a Leopard Reserve—India’s first leopard protection and conservation programme.
The late Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur was an ace hunter, and she shot her first panther at the age of 12. In 1943, she shot the last known resident tiger in the forests of Jhalana—a female with five cubs. This watchtower, Shikar Oudhi, was used by the Jaipur royal family for shikar. Since the ban on game hunting, it has become part of the leopard habitat, open to tourists.
The Aravalli Range, spanning from Haryana to Gujarat, are an eroded stub of ancient mountains. It is the oldest range of fold mountains in India. In ancient times, the Aravallis were extremely high but have worn down almost completely since then as a result of millions of years of weathering, which has exposed the folded rock formations.
Langurs play an essential role in the Aravalli ecosystem. They sit above herds of spotted deer and notify them when a predator is close. While foraging on trees, the langur drop fruits on the ground below, which herbivores feed on. In return, the spotted seer's excellent sense of smell allows it to detect predators and warn langurs, particularly those on the ground, so they can take refuge on trees.
Gray langurs, also called Hanuman langurs or Hanuman monkeys, are native to the Indian subcontinent. These langurs have a gray fur (some more yellowish), with a black face and ears.
The dominant vegetation in Jhalana is kikar (Prosopis juliflora). Though well suited to the arid climate of the region, it is an invasive species. The Forest Department has undertaken the huge task of clearing areas infested with kikar trees to allow the regrowth of grassland vegetation, an ideal habitat for the spotted deer population, thus increasing the leopard’s prey base.
An Indian rose-ringed parakeet (P. k. manillensis). Both sexes have a distinctive green colour in the wild. Jhalana’s resident birdlife includes predatory birds like spotted owlet and crescent serpent eagle as well as woodpeckers, doves, pigeons, robins, buntings, peacocks and partridges. The latter two form a major part of the leopards’ diet.
The white-browed fantail is a songbird, and often fans its tail as it moves through the undergrowth. Jhalana’s ecosystem attracts migratory birds like the Indian pitta, Asian paradise flycatcher, Eurasian and Indian rollers as well as raptors such as the serpent eagle, sparrow hawk, honey buzzard and short-toed eagle.
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