The Telegraph
Thursday , May 17 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Home away from the wild
- Villagers protect straying blackbucks

Berhampur, May 16: The endangered blackbuck, which is commonly found in Ganjam district, is struggling with loss of habitat. A steady rise in their numbers over the past few years has caused many of these animals to stray into nearby villages in recent months, escaping from their cramped habitat in the wild.

And instead of shooing them away as this variety of antelope attacks their crops, villagers here protecting them fiercely, shielding them from poachers.

Known variously as krishnasara, baliharina or kala baudia depending upon where you are in the state, the animal is commonly found in Bhetanoi-Balipadar areas of Ghumusar south division in Ganjam district. The shrinking habitat in the area has forced the blackbucks and some spotted deer to migrate to nearby areas, said Pramod Kumar Pradhan, divisional forest officer, Ghumusarn north division.

“Once they come in, the animals do not return to their habitat. They stay in the cashew forests or mango groves near the villages as they seem to feel secure there,” he said. “Our staff has been instructed to patrol the area from the small hours up to 6am, and in the evening up to 11pm to check poaching. We are thankful to the local villagers who have supported us immensely in protecting these animals,” he said.

Blackbucks grazing in the fields of these four villages are now a common sight. The villagers believe that the animals are harbingers of prosperity and good fortune, and so, protect them with a socio-religious zeal.

“Hoards of blackbucks roam freely in a 64sqkm area between Balipadar and Bhetanoi, with villagers protecting them even though the animals destroy their crops. About 20 to 25 of these animals have strayed into four villages — Dhumu Sahi, Nuagaon, Tanarada and Kurulai,” said lecturer Arun Kumar Lenka, a resident of Dhumu Sahi, 82km from here.

Residents of these four villages recently formed the Anchalik Mruga Surakshya Samiti to protect the blackbucks from poaching by outsiders. “We are training people in these four villages to protect these blackbucks at any cost. But a few display boards in this area with a note of caution against poaching as well as provision of drinking facilities for these animals would help us a lot,” said Arun Kumar, president of the samiti.

The forest division plans to dig six water bodies in the area for drinking water facilities for the blackbuck. “We will also put up some display boards to protect these animals and spread awareness through public address systems,” said Pradhan.