Wildlife experts say the move to bring spotted deer from a park in Chattisgarh is not a “well-conceived one” and is being done without following International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) guidelines.
The Assam forest department has set up a committee to study the suitability of spotted deer, which will be brought from Rajnandagaon forest division in Chattisgarh.
Forty spotted deer, comprising 30 females, are to be brought while five buffaloes are being sent there from Manas.
Wildlife expert from Assam Anwaruddin Choudhury said there is no need to bring spotted deer from far away Chhattisgarh as it would serve no purpose. “There is a population of the species in Manas and if there is a dire need, it can be brought from the state or neighbouring states,” he said.
Spotted deer (Axis axis) or chital, according to the Red List of IUCN, has been categorised as of “least concern” as the population of the species is quite sufficient and well-distributed in the country.
Another expert said Manas is a world heritage site having universal conservation value. In the criterion (x) of World Heritage Site description, Manas harbours endemic species like pygmy hog, Bengal florican, hispid hare and the like.
“The heritage attribute carried by endemic and critically endangered species should not be weakened by introducing a conservation insignificant species,” an expert said.
The committee was set up on October 3 and has been asked to submit its report by October 15. “It is impossible to submit a report so quickly,” one of the members added.
“The grassland of Manas supports different charismatic species like Asiatic water buffalo, one-horned rhino, swamp deer, hog deer etc. In the present context, the quality of grassland is deteriorating due to invasive plant species and livestock grazing pressure, among others. If a new herbivore species in certain numbers is introduced in the ecosystem, it might be compound the existing habitat quality. We suggest proper study should be made before any intervention,” another expert said.
According to IUCN SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG), Axis axis often congregate in large groups and return to, and remain in, areas for long periods of time. “They heavily trample and browse vegetation. During the rut (reproductive season) significant impact to trees occurs when bucks rub and polish their antlers on bark, frequently leading to the death of the trees. This results in a loss of the stability that vegetation provides, with resulting destabilisation of stream banks, changes in stream flow and increased erosion and sedimentation of streams, ponds and rivers. When the deer population becomes too large, their trailing behaviour creates dirt pathways through even the thickest of vegetation. These trails can lead to significant erosion and, in wet forest areas, increase runoff by decreasing the mossy layer available that would normally retain water.”
It is also found to carry and transmit bovine tuberculosis and several other diseases. “It is advisable to do proper disease risk analysis (DRA) study before any translocation,” a source said. “We have not been able to translocate rhinos to Manas for the last few years. That should have been given priority,” he added.