Abohar wildlife sanctuary struggles to provide safe environs to animals
Based in the heartland of environment-loving community of Bishnois, the Shri Guru Jambeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary is unique in that it is owned entirely by private individuals or panchayats.Updated: Jun 05, 2019 12:23 IST
Once a natural habitat of scores of endangered blackbucks and nilgais (blue bulls), the Shri Guru Jambeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary in Punjab’s Abohar is now struggling to keep its social commitment to provide save environs to wild animals.
Based in the heartland of environment-loving community of Bishnois, it is a unique wildlife sanctuary that is owned entirely by private individuals or panchayats. A cluster of 13 villages was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1989 at the community’s demand to protect wild animals on their private land.
However, due to changing agrarian conditions, electrified fencing and barbed wires are commonly found around the cotton fields and kinnow orchards in various villages of Sito Gunno sub-tehsil. Villagers say the fencing is erected to save crops from the nuisance of stray cattle, but it is posing a serious threat to the wildlife.
Located in the area bordering Rajasthan’s Sri Ganganagar, these sand dunes — a natural habitat of wild animals — are now being flattened to avail irrigation facilities to exploit agricultural opportunities in the semi-arid area.
However, state wildlife officials say since the government does not own any land in the zone, there are no strict rules for private farmlands.
“Only poaching or hunting of wild animals is strictly prohibited in the notified area of about 180 sq km. Besides antelopes, the sanctuary is also home to jackals, wild boars and a few avian species. The department is mandated to protect wildlife in the natural habitat available. The department cannot regulate any other activity in the sanctuary,” said a senior wildlife official.
Hanuman Singh, 90, of Datarawali village said love for wildlife is a norm for Bishnois, but to keep farms safe is also necessary to survive.
“As animals gobbled up the entire lot of cotton saplings here, we sowed the crop again and it cost extra expenditure. We have to chase blackbucks away from fields as they move in large herds,” he said.
Fazilka deputy commissioner (DC) Manpreet Singh said an inter-departmental task force has been formed to identify and address various problems in the sanctuary. He said farmers are being sensitised to remove the life-threatening fencing.
The DC said it has also been found that farmers from the adjoining villages are leaving abandoned cattle in the sanctuary, which has put a stress on the wildlife facility.
“The population of stray cattle and dogs has reached an alarming level . We have also planned to approach the Centre to provide a corpus fund to support the project,” he added.