Three more blackbucks fleeing flooding were chased and hunted by stray dogs in Savainagar village, around 25 kilometres away from the Blackbuck National Park (BNP) in Velavadar on Monday, while nine more have died after drowning in floodwaters in Undvi village, forest officers said, taking the death toll to 22 this monsoon.
“Three blackbuck were found dead in Savainagar village today. The herbivores managed to flee the flooding in their habitat but were chased and killed by stray dogs,” Mahesh Trivedi, Assistant Conservator of Forests (ACF) of BNP said.
With this, the number of blackbucks which have died due to flooding and related incidents in the jurisdiction of BNP has gone up to 13. The series of deaths had started on September 1 when stray dogs hunted three blackbucks who were fleeing flooding in the Bhal region. Two other blackbucks had drowned after huge volumes of water drained by rivers like Ghelo and Kalubhar following torrential rainfall in the basins caused flooding in this low-lying area. Five others were found dead over the next five days. “Most of the deaths have been due to hunting by dogs while three animals have drowned. Most of these deaths have been reported from Savainagar, a revenue village, some 25 km away from the borders of the BNP,” Trivedi added.
Meanwhile, officers of Bhavnagar (territorial) forest division said that nine blackbucks have been found dead in Undvi, a village near Savainagar. “Undvi is a revenue village near Kamlej Reserve Forest. Two days ago, farmers informed us that carcasses of blackbucks were spotted in thickets of acasis juliflora surrounded by water. Therefore, with the help of officers from Velavadar, we undertook a joint operation in the area and spotted nine carcasses of blackbucks. They all had died due to drowning while trying to flee flooding,” Vojay Rathod, ACF of Bhavnagar said on Monday.
This is second consecutive year when blackbucks have died while trying to flee floods in Bhal. Last year, 19 herbivores had died.
Blackbucks have been included on Schedule-I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and thus enjoy the highest legal protection in the country. The population of this flagship species of Bhal, a grassland spread in Vallabhipur and Bhavnagar talukas of Bhavnagar district is estimated to be around 6000. But this part of Bhal is flooded every monsoon, forcing the herbivores to run for shelter on elevated grounds near villages. But this makes them vulnerable to hunting by stray dogs. Last year also, more than a dozen blackbucks were killed in this manner.
“Stray dogs have emerged as a major threat to these herbivores, especially in monsoon. The blackbuck try to run to higher grounds in a bid to flee flooding. But in the process, they lose much energy and stamina as the terrain, which turns marshy, makes it difficult for them to sprint. Already strained while trying to reach to higher grounds, animals become very vulnerable to stray dog attacks,” Trivedi further said.
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