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Oh deer! We finally have a safe haven

- 54-acre guarded rescue centre for chital & other animals debuts in Silli, 60km from capital

Here’s some news wildlife enthusiasts will hold dear.

Jharkhand’s second animal rescue centre opened its doors at Ramdera in Ranchi’s Silli block, some 60km from the capital, on Tuesday, welcoming its first denizens — five spotted deer, popularly known as chital — from Bhagwan Birsa Biological Park in Ormanjhi.

So far, the state had a solitary habitat for wounded or abandoned elephants at Makulakocha, adjoining Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary. The Kalamati Deer Park in Ranchi and the Hazaribagh National Park too provide camps for rescued deer, albeit temporary. The new 54-acre shelter along the forest belt on the outskirts of Ramdera will host several other wildlife species such as bison and nilgai (Asia’s largest antelope), besides the spotted deer.

Assistant conservator of forests C.M.P. Sinha said the Rs 50-lakh rescue hub took two years to take shape. “The main objective of this centre is to provide relief and medical aid to rescued, wounded or ailing animals. We will develop watering holes and grasslands to offer animals their most natural habitat, which will help them acclimatise in the run-up to their release into the wild,” he said.

According to Birsa zoo vet Ajay Kumar, the five spotted deer that were sent to Ramdera, 80km from Ormanjhi, comprised three females and two males.

“Two of the females are pregnant and are expected to deliver in two months. The Ramdera family will grow happily. We already have a healthy deer population at the zoo — their numbers have touched 95 — so we could easily part with some animals for the new centre,” he said.

Deer is a flighty, agile animal, which increases the risk of injury like fracture during transportation. So, the animals were tranquillised for two hours and brought in separate cages. “The cages were adequately cushioned with grass, which could also satisfy their hunger during the long journey if the effect of the tranquilliser wore out. All the animals have reached their new home safe,” Kumar said.

He added that normally, a chital survived for 14-15 years in the wild, while captive breeding increased their life span by a couple of years.

However, improving life expectancy of the spotted deer isn’t exactly the purpose of this rescue centre. With instances of man-animal conflict — deforestation, urbanisation and poaching — on the rise, the idea is to protect the species though it is listed under the “least concern” category of IUCN. Though forest officials couldn’t furnish figures for deer poaching, unconfirmed sources said it was rampant.

“The Ramdera centre has been encircled with protective nets. It will also boast quarantine wards, water bodies and grasslands in the near future,” forester Sinha said, adding that the location was carefully chosen too. “There are hillocks and caves around the centre, which will act as deterrents for hunters. We will take necessary precautions by deploying security personnel and caretakers at the centre.”

Sinha also announced the inauguration of an ecological park on the hills of Muri Tungri on Wednesday. “The 23-acre landscaped park will attract tourists with its recreation facilities that will be unveiled tomorrow,” he kept surprise in store.