20 km to the Southeast of Pune lies the Purandar District with its headquarters at Saswad. As we leave the semi-urban environs of Saswad behind, we enter a unique habitat – a mosaic of grasslands interspersed with agricultural lands and human settlements. This human dominated semi-arid savannah landscape harbours unique and threatened faunal diversity.
These areas, historically labelled as ‘wastelands’, have long been ignored by environment policy makers due to the cryptic nature of diversity which they possess. As the city limits of Pune expand, these ‘wastelands’ face the threat of being engulfed by development. Worryingly, there is a plan to destroy part or whole of the Saswad grasslands for the proposed Pune International Airport. We sincerely hope that better sense prevails and this magnificent and unique landscape along with its rare biodiversity are spared from destruction.
The Indian Grey Wolf (Canis lupus pallipes) along with the Indian Gazelle or Chinkara (Gazella bennettii) are the flagship species of this landscape. Also inhibiting this landscape are Striped Hyenas (Hyaena hyaena), Indian Fox (Vulpes benghalensis), Jungle cat (Felis chaus), Golden Jackal (Canis aureus), Four Horned Antelope or Chousingha (Tetracerus quadricornis), Indian Porcupine (Hystrix indica) and many others.
The avian diversity of the area consists of more than 200 species, with notable species like the Bonelli’s Eagle, Striolated Bunting, White-Bellied Minivet, Painted Sandgrouse and Indian Eagle Owl. Steppe Eagle, Amur falcon, Short-Eared Owl, harriers are key winter migrants.
The herpetofauna of the region consists of the Pune endemic Poona Skink (Eurylepis poonaensis), uncommon species like Leopard Gecko, Marbled Balloon Frog and the colourful Fan-Throated Lizard.
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As the Pune city limits expand, these ‘wastelands’ face the threat of being engulfed by development. Worryingly, there is a plan to destroy the Saswad grasslands for a proposed International Airport.