Monday, October 11, 2010

Growing Concern of Livestock Grazing in Assamese Wildlife Sanctuary

Indian one-horned rhinoceros

A wildlife sanctuary in the state of Assam called Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary has just witnessed a spurt in domestic livestock grazing, which has led to some grave concern regarding its wildlife. This tiny wildlife sanctuary, like its larger counterpart Kaziranga National Park, is home to a very high concentration of one-horned rhinos. Among the major ecological hazards amidst include an increased contact with the livestock, which would expose wild herbivores to diseases from cattle. Another issue is related to the availability of food and space, in which the encroaching livestock would put pressure on food and living space inside the sanctuary that expands only 38.8 square kilometers across. Also, there has also been concerns about the risk of cross-breeding with the cattle which would weaken the gene pool of another flagship species, the wild water buffalo.

In addition to that, forest officials have also shown concern about the risk of human-wildlife conflict as the encroachment of livestock would force wild animals like rhinos to stray out of the sanctuary in search of food and space. According to one forest official, a fence was posted up to prevent the cattle from entering but the people would remove parts of the fence allowing their animals to enter. The official further stated that he and others are in talks with the locals, so that they can understand the ecological problems. Apart from forest officials, conservationists have also felt that excessive livestock grazing would further jeopardize Pobitora and its local wildlife population because it resembles a small island amidst human settlements.

I sure hope that some serious measures will come into action in reducing the chances of any livestock grazing in this wildlife sanctuary. With an area of 38.8 square kilometers, Pobitora truly happens to be a tiny wildlife sanctuary compared to Kaziranga and easily prone to such environmental issues. I'm, however, glad to see that the forest officials have taken action in communicating with the local people about the dangers of raising their cattle in the forests. I'm also happy to see that they have taken a further step advising periodical vaccinations of the cattle against various diseases, but I also hope that these vaccines will not affect the wildlife like how diclofenac did to India's vulture population.

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