Where the buck does not stop for the Blackbuck

By Prashanth M B

Blackbucks are the only endemic antelope of India and occur patchily across the subcontinent. The Tamil Nadu Blackbuck Sanctuary is one such area. Well adapted to dry regions, they were once spread across the vast arid and semi-arid plains here. Now, however, they are confined to a small hillock that is over-grown with dense thorny scrub, which isn’t conducive for them.

As this sanctuary poses a challenge for them, the small population of blackbucks quite naturally wanders into the adjoining fallow lands.

Picture: The contrast between the forest thickets and the fallows is quite remarkable

The lack of agricultural activity here means that there is no potential source of conflict. But the changing land use looms large upon their chances of survival. The fallow’s existence might be temporary, as generations of land owners burdened by unproductive agricultural lands seek a more profitable use of the land. So the transformation of the fallow into residential layouts and industries has already begun.

Over the last few years (2013-2016), many changes have occurred in the management of the lands in and around the sanctuary, including the clearing of an exotic plantation. If the status of the land continues to be pasture land, it would be beneficial to conduct a dialogue with the grazing community.

The place still has vast stretches of continuous reserve forest with open lands in the foothills suitable for the Blackbuck, but connectivity between the two places remains an issue. One possible solution is to integrate the reserve forest into the sanctuary area and make the land suitable for Blackbuck in places where vegetation has been introduced.

It is quite ironic, that an animal that was once spread across vast open areas in the plains of the district will now struggle to survive in the small sanctuary preserved for it.

Reference: Prashanth, M.B., Sarvanan, A., Mathivannan, M., and Ganesh, T., 2014, Distribution patterns and habitat requirements of blackbuck in Vallanadu blackbuck sanctuary: implications for conservation and management. Indian Forester special issue on wildlife, 40 (10): 1005-1013.