The population of Blackbucks at Jayamangali is on the rise. With poaching incidents on a decline and continuing habitat protection, the Blackbuck population has risen considerably at Jayamangali Blackbuck Conservation Reserve in Madhugiri taluk, Tumakuru district of Karnataka.
The open, plain grasslands (that is part of the Deccan Plateau) at Jayamangali which borders Anantapur district (AP) are the natural habitat of these beautiful antelopes. Sustaining the largest, contiguous population, one can see herds and herds of Blackbucks at Jayamangali as one traverses the 3.23 sq kms of this protected area.
Located just next to a small village, Maidanahalli, the Conservation Reserve (CR) has a few water bodies which sustains different species throughout the year. It not only sustains wild animals but also the village cattle which can be seen grazing in the CR.
When Green Minute spoke to a few farmers who had brought their cattle for grazing inside the conservation reserve, they said access to the protected area was no issue as they had free access and used the mud path for connectivity.
Surprisingly, the farmers did not complain of straying of blackbucks into their fields in search of food and in fact, pointed out the location of various herds. In the last three years, the grassland habitat was thriving and the water holes brimming due to copious rains, they informed.
According to Eranna and Nagaraj, forest watchers, the population of blackbucks has risen considerably due to continuing protection measures. However, the conservation reserve suffers from lack of facilities as forest staff do not have any vehicles for taking up protective measures.
The forest watchers claimed, “Presently, there are more than 2K blackbucks as per our sightings. We have one anti-poaching camp (APC) with the conservation reserve manned by one DRFO, one forest guard and four forest watchers.”
Compared to earlier times, hunting has come down considerably and all encroachments contained, the forest watchers added. Apart from blackbucks, apex predator like leopards have been sighted often. Further, foxes, wild boars, reptiles, and a host of other species have been sighted.
According to residents, Somashekar from Madhugiri and Siraj Ahmed K A from Kodigenahalli, the revival of the Jayamangali River (bordering the conservation reserve) after almost three and a half decades, has not only helped the farmers but also a variety of wildlife species.
The residents added, “But more needs to be done as the conservation reserve with its rich biodiversity is hardly accessible. Bad roads and lack of even basic amenities deter people from coming to this place. So, we hardly get any visitors to this conservation reserve.”
It was in February 2007 that this area was declared as a Conservation Reserve after field surveys and census by Tumakuru based Wildlife Aware Nature Club (WANC) and Karnataka Forest Department in 1997 which revealed a healthy population of blackbucks (408).
Another census in 2002 showed a rise in blackbucks to more than 600. Apart from Blackbucks, the conservation reserve supports, a variety of bird species (125).
INDIAN ANTELOPE SPECIES
The Indian Antelope or the Blackbuck or the Krishna Mriga (Kannada) or Krishnasaar (Hindi) is native to India and Nepal. They belong to the Bovidae family and inhabit open, plain grasslands or dry scrub lands.
The blackbucks are largely confined to protected areas as they are extinct in many areas across India due to destruction of grasslands, rampant hunting and encroachment of their habitat for agriculture.
A Schedule-1 species under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, blackbucks have been listed as Near Threatened under the Red List of IUCN.
The males have dark brown or black fur while its chin and under body parts are white. Further, its eyes are covered in white rings.
The male’s characteristic ringed and spiral horns grow to a length of 28 inches. The females are light brown and much smaller with plain horns.
Blackbucks are one of the fastest animals on earth and run at a speed of 80 kilometers per hour. They are normally active during daytime and move about in herds – foraging in grasslands. The size of the herds varies – sometimes as less as three and going up to 25.
Apart from Jayamangali, blackbucks are also found in Ranebennur, Haveri district as well as Bidar district in Karnataka.