Maharashtra will carry out the first count of its Indian Blackbuck population by September this year.
The Pune wildlife division and the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) will carry out a survey of the blackbuck, the Indian Gazelle (chinkara deer) and bird species including larks and the endangered Great Indian Bustard (GIB) over a 550 sq km area, including the 363 sq km Nanaj Bustard Sanctuary, also known as the GIB sanctuary.
“We will count the blackbuck population in forest areas, agricultural fields and irrigated land near water reservoirs,” said Sunil Limaye, chief conservator of forests, Pune.
“A number of development projects such as roads being built on grasslands or barren lands have caused the displacement of the blackbuck from its habitats. It is important to know the current status and distribution of blackbuck in such a huge landscape,” he said.
The World Bank-funded Drought Prone Areas Programme started in the 1980s enabled the forest department to create pastures for grassland animals. “However, people began planting exotic trees, which forced the blackbuck and other species to move out,” he said. BNHS officials said there have been reports of crop damage in areas where the study will be conducted.
“During summer seasons, animals disperse from their habitat to other areas in search of food and water. For this specific study, most of the animals are expected to be seen concentrated at grasslands. The survey will be done in these areas by carrying out individual count of each species, most populated habitats and whether there is any development projects that may affect the site,” said Sujit Narwade, project scientist, BNHS.
First Blackbuck, Indian Bustard count
Come September, the population of the Indian Blackbuck and the Great Indian Bustard will be assessed in forest areas, agricultural fields and irrigated land near water reservoirs.
Following information will be collected from Great Indian Bustard (GIB) Sanctuary and adjoining areas –
•Total number of animals or birds
•Whether they are male, female or juvenile
•Name of nearby village/site
•Whether the area is grassland, irrigated land, waterhole or a water body
•Plantation area with global position system (GPS) coordinates
(Source: Pune Forest Department)
The Great Indian Bustard
The state bird of Rajasthan, it is a critically endangered bird species as per the red list of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with extremely small populations and a rapid decline owing to habitat degradation, hunting and direct disturbance. The bird is protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. In Maharashtra, the main breeding areas are Warora, Chandrapur, and Nanaj Bustard Sanctuary in Solapur.
The Indian Antelope
Predominantly herbivorous animals, the Indian Blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra) are found in herds of 20 or 30, mostly at open or grasslands. An adult Blackbuck can be identified by black and white fur and is identified as an endangered animal by IUCN owing to poaching and habitat destruction. The animal is protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
(Source: Bombay Natural History Society)