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BLACKBUCK IN Odisha
(Local Oriya names: 'Krushnasar mriga', 'Bali Harina', 'Kala bahutia'

The Indian Blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra), is one of the three species of antelopes found in Odisha. The other two are Nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus) and the Chowsingha (Tetracercus quadricornis). All the three are even-towed (Artiodactyla) Bovids. Blackbuck is considered to be the fastest animal in the world next to Cheetah. There is a fast decline in the population of Blackbucks throughout the country due to poaching and habitat loss. In the recent past, this endemic animal was most numerous, commonly seen as a large wild mammal in the Indian subcontinent. Subsequently within a short span of time this animal has suffered much reduction in numbers. Blackbuck is included in the Schedule-I of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and is designated as Vulnerable as per Red Data Book (1994). It is one of the most popular exhibits in most of the zoos of the country and else where.

DISTRIBUTION AND STATUS
In India the species is wide spread in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Tamilnadu and other areas throughout peninsular India. In 1982, the estimated population in India was between 22,500 to 24,500. According to 1993 estimation, the population of Blackbuck in India was between 10,000 and are stable or increasing
.

Past distribution in Odisha:
This species was occurring in Balesore and Puri Districts and very scarcely in Bolangir and Kalahandi districts and also in coastal sand dunes of Bhitarkanika and Kujang area. Upto the 1960s, the Blackbuck number was reported to be 1200 -1300.

Present distribution in Odisha:
It is now confined to Balukhand-Konark coastal plain / wildlife sanctuary in Puri District; Balipadar-Bhetnoi and adjacent areas in Ganjam District.

In Odisha the estimated population of Blackbuck is about 800 to 900.

The Balipadar-Bhetnoi area comprising of about 70 villages of Buguda, Aska and Kodala Forest Ranges in Ganjam District. The Blackbucks of Balipadar-Bhetnoi area are protected religiously by the local society. The belief that the presence of Blackbuck in the paddy fields brings prosperity to the local villager has contributed greatly to the conservation of this species. The villagers do not kill the animal even if it strays into the fields and grazes their crop.
Blackbucks of Balipadar-Bhetnoi: Historical Significance: The Blackbucks of Balipadar-Bhetnoi areas are protected socio-religiously by the local people for several generations. As the story goes more than a century ago, there had a long spell of drought in the locality. During this period, a small group of Blackbuck appeared in the area and then there was rain and the drought spell was broken. Since then people had started rigidly protecting these animals as they feel that their fate is linked with these Blackbuck. During 1918, a Britisher known as "Green saheb" and the 'Sardar' of the locality Sri Madeshi Chandramani Dora took initiative for protection of this species and published a notification in the Oriya news paper "Prajamitra" prohibiting killing of the Blackbuck.

RESEARCH
A research scheme was partially implemented with financial assistance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India for collection of basic scientific information on the isolated population of Blackbucks in Balipadar- Bhetnoi area during l995-'96. On the findings of the above study there has been documentation of (i) population status, sex composition, herd structure and social grouping (ii) distribution pattern of the animal and threat aspects, and (iii) breeding biology (natality /mortality parameters), etc.

REHABILITATION
Steps were taken to rehabilitate Blackbucks into Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary during 1985-87 by introducing 14 (9M+5F) zoo bred specimens of Nanadanakanan Zoological Park stock. They could not adjust to the new surrounding and all perished after a couple of months.

Realising the significance of Blackbuck,
the Ballipadar area is being developed as a
"Community Reserve" in accordance with the provisions of
Wildlife (Protection) Act as amended in the year 2002.

CENSUS OF BLACKBUCKS
The Forest Department conducted a census of Blackbucks on 14.5.1973 in the Balipadar- Bhetnoi area. Subsequently, the census was conducted in the year 1980, 1998 and 2004 in the same area. In order to ascertain the population, the survey area is divided into small segments and enumerators in each segment make total count of the animals from direct sighting.

Results of 2004-census indicate that, there is 42% increase in the Blackbuck population over the last count (1998census), and out of three Forest Ranges, namely Buguda, Aska and Khallikote, Buguda Range alone holds 56% of the Blackbuck population at present.
Table: Trend (1973-2004)

Year

Male

Female

Young

Total

Sex ratio

(M: F)

1973

152

(29.06)

302

(57.74%)

69

(13.20%)

523

(100%)

1:2.0

1980

129

(26.60%)

284

(58.60%)

72

(14.80%)

485

(100%)

1:2.2

 

1998

94

(17.06%)

376

(68.24%)

81

(14.70)

551

(100%)

1:4.0

2004

212

(27%)

487

(62%)

87

(11%)

786

(100%)

1:2.3

 

2006

306

 

664

 

131

 

1131

 

1:2.1

 

To

BLACKBUCK: AN OVERVIEW
The Blackbuck is also found in Western Nepal where there were 176 animals in 1991. A large feral population occur in USA (more than 20,000 in 326 Texas Ranches, 1988). On the Pampas on north-western and central Argentina more than 10,000 animals were available in 1980s.

MORPHOLOGY
Blackbuck is a medium sized Antelope which stands about 80 cm. at the shoulder and weighs about 40 kg. They are sexually dimorphic. The males at their initial stage are brown without horns. However, with secretion of sexual hormone, males develop a pair of un- branched ,'corkscrew' horns on each side of head and change their body colour to elegant black. The beautiful spiral horns (never shed like deer's antler) may grow upto 50 cm. The colour of the body coat is light yellow in young and females. As the male grows older the dorsal body colour turns into black. Males have a pronounced post orbital glands which exude a pungent sticky secretion.


HABITAT
It primarily covers three Forest Ranges i.e. Buguda and Aska under Ghumsur south Division and Khallikote Range of Berhampur Forest Division. The state highway from Khurda to Berhampur via Nayagarh also passes through their habitat.
The Blackbuck habitat covers about 60% cultivated lands/cropped fields, 15%rocky elevations, 10% man made houses and roads, 8% forest cover, 5% water bodies and 2% horticulture farms and waste lands

FOOD
Blackbucks live on fresh tender leaves, grass, crops, cereals, vegetables and leaves of shrubs and trees. They feed for a long time, select succulent grasses, tender shoots of crops and plants which help them to maintain water balance in their bodies. They can survive without drinking water for a day to week.

MOVEMENT PATTERN
Blackbucks are gregarious in nature. Their movement depends upon the following factors:
·      Availability of fresh vegetation
·      Availability of water
·      Human interference
·      Interference by domestic animals within their activity limit.
·      Environmental parameters like temperature, wind, rainfall play important role for determining the movement pattern of Blackbuck.

HERD STRUCTURE AND SOCIAL GROUPING
The social organisations of Blackbucks are categorized into the following groups:

1 Mixed herd formed by males and females of different age groups.

2 Harem herd or territorial herd with one territorial male and females with all age groups.

3 Bachelor herd of all male members.

4 Herd of all female groups.

5 Lone adult male (wandering).

BREEDING
Blackbucks breed in all seasons but main rut takes place between February to May .The gestation period is about 5-6 months. Usually only one young is born at a time. Females of about two years old and above give birth to young ones. At the Nandanakanan Zoo in Odisha, a female fawned for the first time at the age of 2 years and one month and another at the age of almost two and half years.


RESEARCH AMORTALITY
The normal life span of Blackbuck is about 12 to 15 years. The maximum age recorded was 16 years and 10 months
.


PREDATION
The young ones fall pray to a number of predators such as wolf, hyena, jungle cat, jackal, pythons, wild pigs, feral dogs, etc..
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