A Sambar deer was recently spotted at Buddha Jayanti Park in Chanakyapuri. The large deer is native to the Indian subcontinent and is a vulnerable species. Devendra Singh, an animal enthusiast who spotted it, said the female deer took him by surprise. Animal expert Sohail Madan said it was the first sighting in more than 20 years.
“Sambar deer is not found anywhere in Delhi. It is surprising that it was spotted here,” said Madan who is also the centre manager at Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary. He mentioned that the animal has not even been spotted at Asola Wildlife Sanctuary.
Singh, who is an executive director in Ministry of Railways, said that the animal was shy and as soon as he started photographing it jumped over the 5-foot wall and disappeared into the forest area and has not been seen since. When Singh enquired about it with the gardener of the park he claimed of another deer present in he vicinity. “There may be a male deer, but I haven’t seen it yet,” he added.
Experts say the animal might have strayed into the Central Ridge either from Rajaji National Park in Haridwar (Uttarakhand) or from Sariska National Park in Alwar (Rajasthan). They speculated the deer may have strayed into Delhi due to stress after its original habitat was destroyed or lack of food there.
Sambar deer are nocturnal. The average herd consists of three or four animals. They often congregate near water, and are good swimmers. Like most deer, sambar are generally quiet, although all adults can scream or make short, high-pitched sounds when alarmed. They more commonly communicate by scent marking and foot stamping. They prefer the dense cover of deciduous shrubs and grass. These is generally found in areas spanning over 1,500 hectares (3,700 acres) for males and 300 hectares (740 acres) for females in India. Sambar deer primarily live in woodland and feed on a wide variety of vegetation, including grass, foliage, browse, fruit, and water plants, depending on the habitat. They are a favourite prey for tigers and Asiatic lions. In India, the sambar can comprise up to nearly 60% of the prey selected by the Bengal tiger.
Animal expert and a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Sebastian Thejus Cherian also confirmed it was the first sighting in 20 years. He said Delhi’s climate and habitat is not suitable for Sambar deer. “We generally see either nilgai or spotted deer (Chital) in forest areas of Delhi or big parks like Deer Park. But I haven’t heard of Sambar being seen here,” he said.
An expert with Wildlife SOS, Baiju Raj, said that rampant construction has lead to receding forest cover. As a reason, animals move from one area to another in search of food.