AS MANY as 16 blackbucks fleeing flooding in their habitat following very heavy rain were hunted by feral dogs near Blackbuck National Park, Velavadar, in Bhavnagar district over the past two days, forest officers said on Tuesday. One more of the herbivores was killed in a road accident while another drowned in floodwaters.
The Blackbuck National Park (BNP) is located in Bhal region of Bhavnagar district. Major rivers such as Kalubhar and Ghelo of Saurashtra runs through Bhal, which gets submerged during the monsoon.
“In search of elevated ground during flooding, the blackbucks ventured near villages, where they were attacked by feral dogs,” Assistant Conservator of Forests of the national park, Mahesh Trivedi, told The Indian Express on Tuesday. “On Monday, 12 blackbucks were killed by dogs. Four more were killed on Tuesday. One drowned and was later partially eaten by dogs while another was run over by a speeding vehicle on Bhavnagar-Sanesh Road.”
Forest officers said that most of the blackbuck deaths were reported from Savainagar, one of the 39 villages surrounding the national park. The animal protected under Schedule-I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 roams these areas in general. Four of the blackbuck deaths were reported in Velavadar range, while the drowning death occurred in the Mobile Squad range of the national park.
The blackbucks’ habitat is grassland. The BNP in Velavadar is spread over just 34.52 square kilometres. However, the blackbucks, which are known for their peculiar style of running during which they jump high, have spilled out of the protected forest area. Trivedi said that out of the 6,000 blackbucks in the area, around 4,000 live outside the protected area.
“Because Bhal is a low-lying area and the delta of a few rivers, it is prone to flooding. Four blackbucks had been killed in a similar manner in June this year when there was heavy rain,” Trivedi added.
The ACF said that forest staff had intensified patrolling after the flooding. “We have formed teams. Our staff surveyed some of the submerged areas with the help of an NDRF team which had an inflatable boat. No big damage has been noticed inside the park,” the officer said.
Many villagers said they saw packs of feral dogs chasing herds of blackbucks who were finding it tough to escape due to the flooding. Some of them said that there is heavier flooding this year as roads in the vicinity of the national park are being widened, a new industrial estate is being created by Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation and permission has been given for salt pans in the region.