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The hidden eyes of the forest
Just five days after the camera trap installed at the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve captured the first photograph of a snow leopard, the forest officers in this eco-sensitive alpine zone in Uttarakhand were in for more surprise. One of the cameras set up in the Valley of Flowers, within the Reserve, threw up pictures of poachers. "Five Nepali poachers were arrested on April 15, a day after a camera trap clicked their picture, " says BK Gangte, director of Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve.
The surprises haven't stopped. "The other day, a Tibetan wolf was caught on camera. Though there has been speculation about this predator inhabiting these mountains, we had never sighted it here, " says SR Prajapati, the district forest officer of Nanda Devi National Park. Fifteen cameras have been in use in the Reserve since last November. The initial results weren't encouraging. But after the Reserve's staff was trained by experts from Wildlife Institute of India on how to choose the right spots, these devices are turning out be invaluable source of information.
Many rare species have since shown up on camera: Red fox, musk deer, blue sheep (bharal) and tahr, to name a few. These records will eventually improve the population estimates of these species, which in the past have been pretty inaccurate.
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