A striped hyena -- a near-threatened species with a global population of less than 10,000 individuals -- has been spotted in Delhi for the first time in around seven years, according to forest and wildlife department officials.
Camera traps installed in the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary have confirmed the presence of the nocturnal animal in the forest, they said.
“This is the first time a striped hyena has been caught on a camera trap in Delhi. According to reports, a striped hyena was killed in a road accident in Dera Mandi area in 2015. That was the last sighting,” Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF), South Division, Amit Anand said.
A wildlife guard in the Asola sanctuary said the staff had found the pugmarks of the animal on a few occasions in 2017-18.
The striped hyena invests most of the day in its den. It forages individually and is rarely seen in groups.
"It's a scavenger and plays an important role in maintaining the stability of a forest ecosystem. The presence of a striped hyena in Asola indicates an improvement in the Asola forest," said wildlife expert Prof Randeep Singh of Amity University.
“Though pugmarks have been found on several occasions in the Aravalli forests of Gurugram, Faridabad and Delhi. This could be the first time it has been caught on camera, but I am not surprised,” he said.
Anand said they had been expecting striped hyenas to be present near Ayanagar and Dera Mandi village, but “we found it closer than we thought – in Deoli”.
He said the department has been able to confirm the presence of two leopards -- a sub male and a male -- in the sanctuary through the images captured by camera traps.
“The leopards are active these days, and we think that their kill might have attracted the striped hyena,” the DCF said.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature has categorised striped hyenas as 'near threatened' species and their global population is estimated to be below 10,000.
Earlier this year, the forest and wildlife department had set up around 20 camera traps in the sanctuary to conduct an animal census, which started in July, to ascertain the number of species and the pattern of their distribution in the forest.
The wildlife sanctuary covering 32.71 sqkm area on the Southern Delhi Ridge of Aravalli hill range on Delhi-Haryana border lies in southern Delhi and northern parts of Faridabad and Gurgaon districts of Haryana.
It is part of the Northern Aravalli leopard wildlife corridor, which extends from the Sariska National Park in Rajasthan to Delhi Ridge.