Thriving Leopard territory in the Aravalli mountain range

Jhalana Leopard Reserve

India’s first Leopard Reserve lies adjacent to the historic city of Jaipur. It’s rise has been meteoric, from a place hardly known a decade ago, to now hosting the world’s highest density of leopards. It is perhaps the only place in India where you can spend the morning shopping in a historic market or visit a palace, have lunch in the city and a big cat safari in the afternoon.

Thriving Leopard territory in the Aravalli mountain range

The reserve is a small but thriving wildlife oasis of 20 km2, comprising of narrow valleys and sharp cliffs in the Aravallis range.

The area was once a royal hunting ground, where the last tiger was reputedly shot in the late 1940s. Later, it degenerated into a scrubland, but a gradually growing population of leopards came to the attention of nature enthusiasts and conservationists, leading to its demarcation as a Leopard Reserve in 2017.

Leopard population has recovered and thrived well here, despite the lack of proportionate ungulate numbers in the reserve due to its proximity of the city and its supply of stray dogs, which make a hearty snack for Jhalana’s semi-urban leopards

Flora and Fauna

Jhalana is a dry deciduous forest, remaining dry for most of the year. Hardy plants like juliflora (Prosopis juliflora) and khejri (Prosopis cineraria) thrive on the flat land while the valley slopes support trees like dhak (Butea monosperma) and dhonk (Anogeissus pendula). As this is still a nascent reserve, authorities are planting more trees in order to increase the green cover.

The reserve hosts almost 50 Leopards in it’s 20 km2 area, believed to be the world’s highest density of leopards for any wildlife reserve. The Leopard is the apex predator here due to the absence of Tigers. Being diurnal and habituated to safari vehicles, leopards are sighted frequently, specially near the artificial waterholes and various vantage points where the graceful felines like to bask.

Other than leopards, the reserve has Striped Hyenas, Indian civets, Desert Cat, Jungle Cat, Desert Fox, Jackal, Porcupine, Monitor Lizards, and Mongooses. Among ungulates, there are small populations of Sambar Deer, Spotted Deer and Nilgai.

Experiences

Shikaar Oudi, a basic three-storey hunting lodge of the Jaipur royal family is located in the middle of the leopard reserve. The terrace is a great place to enjoy sunrises and sunsets, and observe the proximity of the city limits.

From the Director's Travel Diary

Leopards are notoriously shy in most Indian reserves, so when I first heard of the ease with which leopards were being sighted and photographed in a place I’d never even heard of, I was sceptical. I feared Jhalana may be a fenced off area where a handful of leopards captured for straying too close to the city had been released into a semi-captive environment.

On my first visit, I was amazed at the natural environment where leopards strode free and confident in such close proximity to the city. Being able to squeeze a visit to the Amer Fort between my morning and afternoon safaris was an unbelievable convenience for a time constrained traveller seeking both wildlife and historical exploration.

While the reserve isn’t as picturesque or as abundant as more established reserves, it is heartening to note the efforts the state authorities are putting in nurturing the oasis. Recently another section of the Aravalli hills has been opened as the Amagarh Reserve, so the future of Jaipur's leopards is bright.

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