110 to 0 in three years! Blackbucks vanish from Odisha sanctuary

Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Apr 13:

The Balukhand-Konark Wildlife Sanctuary in Odisha’s Puri district, which once boasted of scores of endangered black bucks, has drawn a blank in the recent census.

black bucks

While as many as 110 black bucks, listed in Schedule-I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, were spotted in the last census, not a single black buck was found in the latest census. This no-show has surprised wildlife experts and posed questions on the conservation of the endangered species.

“Though the local villagers informed about the presence of the black bucks, no antelopes were found during the census,” Puri DFO Chittaranjan Mishra said.

Mishra, however, pointed out that 4, 465 spotted deer, porcupine, jackal, rabbit, bear, hyena, guana, wild cat and other wild animals were spotted in the sanctuary during the census. In addition to this, the number of pythons and king cobras in the sanctuary is significant, he said.

The authorities have submitted their report to Principal Chief Conservator of forests (PCCF) and have suggested relocation of some black bucks from Bhetanoi-Balipadara in Ganjam district where the population of the black bucks is comparatively high. However, no steps have been taken on the suggestion till now.

The census teams inspected 96 routes in the sanctuary and enumerated various species of wild animals.

There were around 100 black bucks and over 3000 deer in the wildlife habitat when the area stretching from Talabania village to Keluni Muhana of Astaranga was declared a sanctuary 1984.

According to wildlife experts, at least 110 black bucks were enumerated in 2005 in the sanctuary spread over an area of 71.72 sq km. In 2010-11, the number rose to 170.

“There were around 110 black bucks during last census in 2012-13.The disappearance of this endangered species is surprising and should be investigated,” former PCCF Bijay Ketan Patnaik said.

Non-availability of food and drinking water could be the reason behind the disappearance of these black bucks, Patnaik said. The increase in the cashew nut forest cover could also have contributed to the food scarcity. The government should plant jujube trees which are staple food of these animals, he suggested.

The deer are entering around 45 villages near the sanctuary in search of food and water. They are even going up to Talabania in Puri. They turn to beaches to quench their thirst since the ponds in the area have dried up. While crossing from the sanctuary to the beaches, they are often run over by speeding vehicles. Transporting black bucks from other areas to this sanctuary without addressing these concerns wouldn’t serve any purpose, environmentalists opined.

Notably, the Indian black buck (Antilope cervicapra) is one of the three species of antelopes found in Odisha. The other two are nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus) and the chowsingha (Tetracercus quadricornis).

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