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27 February, 2009

'Red alert: Blackbuck numbers on the wane'

Source: The New Indian Express, Bengaluru, 23 Feb, '09


Red alert: Blackbuck numbers on the wane

DAYS NUMBERED? A male blackbuck at the Maidenahalli Conservation Reserve in Bangalore on Sunday.
First Published : 23 Feb 2009 03:44:00 AM IST
Last Updated : 23 Feb 2009 11:29:34 AM IST

BANGALORE: The number of blackbucks in the state is fast dwindling, finds a census conducted in and around Dayamangali Conservation Reserve in Tumkur by the forest department.

The census was released in the city on Sunday. The census, conducted in association with NGO Wild Awareness Nature Club (WANC), estimated the population of the endangered species at 458.

This is a steep fall from the 2002 census data, which had pegged the number at 600.

Dayamangali is one of the two blackbuck reserves in the state, the other being Ranibennur Reserve.

Direct spotting method was adopted for the census, in which 100 volunteers and 25 forest department officials participated. The number of male and female blackbucks were put at 129 and 325 respectively, while the gender of four was not known.

The first blackbuck census in Dayamangali in 1997 had put the numbers at 408. "The population rose during 1997-2002, but has dwindled now. Reasons for this could be loss of habitat, heavy use of pesticides in farms and electric fencing," says Ameen Ahmed, Secretary of WANC. The demography of the area has been changing during the last few years. "Earlier the area around the forests was occupied by marginal farmers, who cultivated groundnut and dry crops. Now these holdings have been consolidated and acquired by large farmers, who use it for horticulture.

This has affected the mobility and feeding practices of the blackbuck, which tends to stray a lot. Commercial activities by vested interests, with some support from the government, has been going on in the area," says Ahmed.

Adding to the trouble is a road right in the reserve forest area constructed by the Zilla Panchayat (ZP) authorities without the forest department's consent.

A case filed by the department against the ZP authorities is pending in the court. However, the road continues to be used by the public.

The number of poaching cases in the area has also risen recently. In two separate incidents, the forest department and the police had arrested poachers in the last ten months. Poaching is usually for sport or meat.

Forest guards should be given vehicles and equipment for patrolling.

More funds should be allocated to protect the blackbuck, activists say.

"This forest was declared a blackbuck reserve, but no funds were allocated for it. Blackbuck or antelope cervicapra is the only animal belonging to the antelope family that is spotted in India and more needs to be done to protect it," says TVN Murthy, wildlife warden in Tumkur district.

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