Not humans but feral dogs are the new chinkara and blackbuck poachers
Bollywood star Salman Khan was in Jodhpur jail four times for poaching chinkara and blackbucks but the law seems to be helpless against feral dogs--the new hunters of the antelopes in desert region.
At least 1,776 injured wild animals were brought to Jodhpur for treatment in 2017-18, out of which, 1,204 or 80% of the animals were chinkaras, injured by dogs, says Dr Shrawan Singh Rathore, in-charge of the wildlife rescue centre at Jodhpur.
Feral dogs are attacking chinkaras, blackbucks and other wild animals, including peacocks, and on average, only 21% of the injured animals, survive, he says.
In the last couple of years, most deaths among Chinkaras were due by dog attacks, wildlife officials say.
Every year the figure is going up, Rathore says and adds that the number of wildlife injured cases due to feral dogs’ attacks was 167 during 2007-08, which in 2017-18 went up to 1,204.
Only 15-20% percent of chinkaras are killed in road accident and other natural causes, the rest of the chinkaras or Indian gazelles--one of the two state animals of Rajasthan--was attacked by feral dogs, Rathore says.
Chinkara, the smallest Asian antelope, is found in a large number in Vishnoi-dominated villages in western Rajasthan.
The Vishnoi community is known for protecting the animal from hunters.
Cases of dog attacks on chinkaras have gone up in recent years due to the rise in the number of feral dogs in the villages, wildlife officials say.
“The incidents of hunting can be monitored, but saving the animal from dog attacks in villages has become a big challenge,” a wildlife official, who does not want to be named, says.
Citing the reason behind the increased number of dog attacks on chinkaras, he says nowadays farmers put up transparent net to prevent stray cattle entering their fields and chased by the dogs, the chinkaras get trapped in the net, and the dogs prey to the helpless animals.
Wildlife experts say that chinkaras have very little chances of survival after a dog attack.
In 1998, when a case of hunting two blackbucks by actor Salman Khan came to light, there was not much awareness among people about hunting of the protected species, says Dr Hem Singh Gehlot, a wildlife conservationist.
“But the monitoring of the forest agency and other social organizations on incidents of chinkara and blackbuck hunting in the last couple of years has increased,” he says.
“Due to monitoring, the incidence of hunting has reduced considerably, but for the past decade, feral dogs have become the new hunters.”
State forest department statistics show that in 2001, 63 cases of hunting had been registered, whereas in 2017, the number came down to eight.
“If dog attacks are not checked, the number of the state animal is likely decline further,” says Gehlot.
Chinkara is the smallest Asiatic antelope. It grows to a height of 65 cm and weighs up to 25 kg. Most males have very short horns, although some grow to a length of 25-30 cm. These Indian gazelles are found mostly in the Thar Desert in Rajasthan. Due to the dwindling numbers, the chinkara has been declared as an endangered species.