One of the deer in its wooden enclosure before being transported to the Sunderbans from Parmadan Deer Park on Wednesday. Picture by Parthasarathi Nandi
Calcutta, Aug. 19: Six spotted deer died early this morning when they were being translocated to the Sunderbans from Parmadan deer park in North 24-Parganas.
Locked inside small wooden enclosures, 25 deer, in four trucks, were being taken to Godkhali ghat, around 80km from Calcutta, from where they were to be taken to the core area of the Sunderbans forest to be released in the wild as prey to the tigers.
On reaching Godkhali ghat, officials discovered that six deer had died in transit.
A post mortem will be conducted to determine the cause of their death. Senior officials of the department said a variety of factors could be responsible for the death of the deer.
According to Atanu Raha, principal chief conservator of forests, the tyre of one of the trucks had got stuck in slush on Basanti Highway, which caused a delay of four to five hours in transportation.
“A lot of factors could have caused the death of the deer. They are a faint-hearted creature. They could not take all the jerking when forest department officials were manoeuvring the truck out of the slush and could have died of heart failure.
Moreover, it was very hot and humid on Wednesday. The delay in transportation along with heat could have caused the deaths,” said Raha.
The forest department has come in for strong criticism from within the department itself. “It seems like a case of negligence. The vehicles could have been driven slowly. When the truck was stuck in the slush, they could have disembarked the deer and then manoeuvred the truck. Since it was very hot, the deer could have been taken on some other day when the temperature was not so high,” said a senior forest department official.
Forest secretary, K.S. Rajendrakumar, said if any lapses are found, the department would take appropriate action. “It is not a very serious incident. But if we find any lapses, the guilty would be punished,” said Rajendrakumar.
From Godkhali the deer were suppose to be a taken to a camp in the core area for acclimatisation after, which they were to be released in the wild.
According to Raha, it is a normal practice to let off the deer in the wild whenever their population in the deer-park increases. And such trans-location might cause a casualty of 20 per cent.
“For the last two decades deer are being trans-located to the Sunderbans from the deer park and the same procedure of transportation is adopted every time. And every time a few deer die during the process due to their faint hearted nature. A casualty rate of 20 per cent is not very alarming,” said Raha.
According to wildlife experts there might be a shortage of food for the tigers in Sunderbans for which transporting these deer to the forest area is very important. “Though no scientific study has ever been conducted on this subject but it is always wise to have a constant supply of food to the big cats in the wild,” said a wildlife expert in the city.
According to forest department officials, three deer, among 51, that were kept aside for release in the Sunderbans, at the Parmadan sanctuary, had died yesterday before the transportation took place.