While the forest department is struggling to confirm the presence of a leopard in the national capital, officials on Thursday said such tasks are becoming increasing difficult given a massive staff crunch, with almost negligible frontline staff.
According to the officials, Delhi's Forest and Wildlife Department has only two wildlife inspectors while nine are required, one wildlife guard against 11 posts and all six posts of forest ranger lying vacant.
While a staff of only two labourers has been posted along with two inspectors, at least 36 labourers per inspectors are needed, around 200 additional labours and over 50 forest guards are also required in the department.
The department also does not have veterinarians and flying squads, or a monitoring unit to check the felling of trees, poaching or smuggling of wildlife contraband and encroachment on forest land, officials said.
Officials said in case of an emergency or upon spotting of a carnivore, they mostly rely on the support of non-government organisations like Wildlife SOS and the police.
"One leopard was spotted by some locals on Monday at Bawana (in North Delhi), and we are struggling to confirm its presence. Delhi has a porous border and a leopard can enter from several corridors. If even two or three such spotting occur in different zones, we are helpless," a forest official told IANS on condition of anonymity.
Delhi has a total forest area of 1,483 sqkm of which 192.41 sqkm or 13 per cent is under forest cover, according to India State of Forest Report-2017. Of the 192.41 sqkm, about 6.72 sqkm is very dense forest, 56.24 sqkm is medium dense forest and 129.45 sq km is open forests.
Due to consistent felling and encroachment, Delhi has lost about 0.22 sq km of its very dense forest and around one per cent of medium dense forest.
"In 2015, the department did advertise three vacancies for wildlife inspectors, but the recruitment never happened," said a forest official.
Delhi also has a wildlife that includes civets, jackals, monitor lizards, porcupines, blue bulls, 13 species of snakes of which two -- the common cobra and common krait -- are venomous. It also has about 200 species of birds.
However, marred by the ground staff crunch, active monitoring and conservation is currently on the back foot.
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