Thursday, November 24, 2011

Enclosure Therapy - Kanha

After the success of Swamp Deer conservation at Kanha National Park it is the black bucks turn. The former program aimed at conserving the highly endangered hard ground barasingha or swamp deer the only of its kind on the World.   The species have adapted to inhabit hard ground with evolutionary change in its hooves. Unlike other Barasinghas in India these are not as splayed and hence work well on hard ground.     

At Kanha the animals recovered from a lowly sixty to more than 300 hundred now. Once these animals thrived in thousands in this region but due to habitat conversion and over hunting the number is pathetically low.  A small population was unable to cope with predation and hence was kept in a large enclosure devoid off all predators including tiger and pythons. This was to prevent predation and increase the survival rate of the fawns. The plan was a  success and the human intervention brought name and fame to the conservation unit.  

The enclosure worked well and may have been used often. Recently about 4 black bucks where introduced in the enclosure at Kanha Tiger Reserve.  About 32 heads of this antelope survived at the preserve during the sixties. It is obvious that the animal did not belong to the ecosystem since open scrub and extensive grasslands do not exist here. The black buck survives on grass and crops in India. After the relocation of human populace from the core the agriculture fields became redundant and turned into edaphic grasslands. Stiff competition for endemic herbivores pushed the antelope to extinction.     

The exercise to reintroduce this animal in the wilds of Kanha is ill conceived since the habitat is not suitable. A high population here would mean increased competition between the deer population in the grasslands. The foreign element could affect the population and breeding of the highly endangered swamp deer.

One reason that can come to mind regarding introduction of black buck at Kanha is to increase tourist attraction. This is a highly myopic exercise and a damaging step. The tiger reserve is a conservation unit and offers scope for tourism which support hundreds of local populace. Besides tourism delivers a positive impact on tourists who come on tiger safaris and birding. People understand the value of conservation by observing the complex web of life at work. Kanha has enough species of deer and does not need an exotic species that could have a negative impact on the fragile web of life which is natural. The animal could survive on the periphery but that would lead to already severe man animal conflict. 

The program should be brought to halt with immediate effect. Species like the Indian wolf and hyena have lost ground  here due to colonization in the buffer zone. These animal should be brought back to status that the National Park can support. The crucial resources should be spent on these beleaguered animals.