Punjab has seen a major fall in population of donkeys, mules, horses and ponies in the state, according data compiled by the state’s Animal Husbandry Department and submitted to the Centre as part of the 20th Livestock Census 2019.
The most drastic dip — 83 per cent — has been in the state’s donkey population, with just 471 donkeys left in Punjab, according to figures compiled by the department.
Not only donkeys, nearly 48 per cent dip has also been witnessed in the population of horses and ponies in Punjab. Similarly, population of mules too has decreased by 68 per cent in Punjab. Experts have blamed the ‘decreasing utility’ due to increasing vehicles for the drastic dip in population of horses, ponies, donkeys and mules in the past seven years.
The worrying dip in the population of these animals is similar to the national trend, as per the provisional 20th Livestock Census data released recently by the Union Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying on its website.
The total population of horses, donkeys, mules and ponies in the country has been pegged at 0.54 million (5.4 lakh only) and has decreased by 52 per cent since 2012. There were nearly 1.14 million (11.4 lakh) horses, mules, donkeys and ponies in the country in 2012.
As per the latest census data, based on figures submitted by Punjab Animal Husbandry Department, the total count of donkeys in the state stands at just 471, a dip of 83.81 per cent since 2012 when there were around 2,909 donkeys in Punjab. At the national level, there are just 1.2 lakh donkeys compared to 3.2 lakh in 2012, a dip of nearly 61 per cent.
Rajasthan is the state with the highest donkey population now as per the latest census (32,000) but it too has witnessed a dip of over 71 per cent in donkey population since 2012.
The highest number of donkeys in Punjab were counted in district Muktsar (56) followed by border district Fazilka (49).
Similarly in Punjab, now there are just 16,683 horses and 363 ponies. In 2012, there were 32,860 horses and ponies in Punjab and their population too has decreased by 48.13 per cent. Nationally, population of horses and ponies in the country has decreased by 45.58 per cent from 6.2 lakh in 2012 to 3.4 lakh in 2019. Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of horses and ponies even as it has witnessed 50 per cent decrease in its population.
In Punjab, the highest horse population (2,027) was counted in Mohali followed by Amritsar (1729) while the highest number of ponies were in Hoshairpur (75).
Mules which are mostly used for loading and transportation work near construction sites, brick kilns etc have also witnessed a dip of 68.26 per cent in their population in Punjab. Now there are just 1,639 mules in state compared to 5,164 in 2012. Countrywide too their population has dipped from 2 lakh to just 80,000 which is nearly 57 per cent dip. Uttarakhand has the highest mule population at 26,000. In Punjab, the highest mule population was counted in Ludhiana (246) and Muktsar (239).
Speaking to The Indian Express, Inderjeet Singh, Director, Punjab’s Animal Husbandry Department, said that decreasing utility of these animals is the prime reason behind drastic dip in their population in seven years. “Small vehicles have replaced their work. Horse carts, mule carts and usage of donkeys for loading and unloading is decreasing. It is easier to keep vehicles now than animals. Horses and ponies are now mostly kept for hobby by farm owners who can afford. Raising an animal is certainly difficult than keeping a vehicle and mechanisation has taken over,” he said.
“It is cheaper and cost-efficient to keep vehicles now than animals. Usage of donkeys, mules etc has drastically decreased at brick kilns, construction sites etc,” said Dr Prakash Singh Brar, Dean, College of Veterinary Sciences, Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (GADVASU).
The Livestock Census covers all domesticated animals and its headcounts.
For the 20th Livestock Census, data was collected by field staff through tablets computers. “The ministry is expected to release the final report of census soon for which the data was collected from 6.6 lakhs villages and 89,000 urban wards across the country covering more than 27 crore households and non- households,” said an official from Punjab Animal Husbandry Department.