Chinkara, one of the two state animals of Rajasthan, that had been at the target of hunters for long time, is now falling prey to stray dogs and hounds, especially after the recent rains.
At least, 160 wild animals, 90 % of them chinkaras, were brought to the centre for treatment in July, said Dr Shrawan Singh Rathore, in charge of the Wildlife Rescue Centre at Jodhpur. Except 10% of the road accident cases, rest of the chinkaras were attacked by dogs, he added.
Chinkara, a rare species of deer family, is found in a large number in the villages dominated by Vishnoi community in Western Rajasthan, as the community is known for protecting the animal from hunters. However, the cases of dog attacks on chinkaras have shot up in recent years due to the rise in number of stray dogs in the villages.
“The incidents of hunting can be monitored, but saving the animal from dog attacks in villages has turned into a great challenge,” said chief conservator of forest (wildlife) Govind Sagar Bhardwaj.
Citing the reason behind the increased number of dog attacks on chinkaras recently, Bhardwaj said that during rainy season soil in the fields turns muddy and the animal can’t run fast in the muddy fields, thus making them vulnerable to stray dogs and hounds. Besides, nowadays farmers put up transparent net to prevent stray cattle enter their fields. While chased by the dogs, the chinkara get trapped in the transparent net, thus falling prey to the dogs.
Bhardwaj said that reasons behind the dwindling numbers of chinkaras in the last five years in Rajasthan are being analysed. Of 2,000 chinkaras reported to have sustained injuries or succumbed to death, 75% of them were found to be the victims of dog attacks. Attacks by dogs on chinkaras have come up in larger number during the rainy season. Experts are of the opinion that chinkaras have the minimum chances of survival after a dog attack.
A research by the zoology department of Jainarayan Vyas University also indicates that paramount reason of chinkaras’ death is the attack by dogs. Dr Hem Singh Gehlot, associate professor of the zoology department, said 35% of the chinkaras were crushed to death between jaws of the dogs from 2002 to 2014. Road accidents killed 24% of them.
Dr Gehlot said that the survey work was done over 2,100 square km area in the Thar desert, including Guda Vishnoian, Dhawa, Sathin, Nagur ki Rain villages. The population of the state animal was around 40,000 in 1980, which has now declined by 15,000. The chinkaras would wander in a herd of about 150 to 200, but now the herd has reduced to mere 15 to 20 in numbers, he added. Expressing concern, Gehlot said if the cases of dog attack were not checked, the number of state animal is likely decline further.
This is the smallest Asiatic antelope. It grows to a height of 65 cms and weighs up to 25 kgs. Most males have very short horns, although some grow to a length of 25-30 cms.
These gazelles are found mostly in open Thar desert in Rajasthan. Their numbers have dwindled to a large extent and they feature on the endangered list.