Monday, January 17, 2011

Stray Dogs Threaten India's Prey Animals

An Indian pariah dog

The jungles of India have been ruled by some of the most powerful and majestic predators in the world. Out of them, the most undisputed is the tiger. Others include the Asiatic lion, the leopard, the snow leopard, the wolf, and the wild dog. But now, there is a new breed of predators lurking amidst the nation's natural ecosystems: stray dogs. There have been recent cases of these tamable animals hunting animals which lions, tigers, and other powerful predators normally prey on. One was reported near Chandigarh's Sukhna Lake when a sambar deer taken down by a pack of these seemingly efficient hunters. The dogs have also been seen preying on fawns and females in the wildlife reserve of Manimajra forests. Other cases have been reported in the lower Shiwalik foothills of Punjab and Haryana, where the dogs have targeted animals such as peacocks, junglefowl, nilgai, and even a goat-like antelope called the goral. In Punjab's Abohar Wildlife Sanctuary, the dogs prey on the magnificent blackbuck. Even though these animals are unnatural predators in the food chain, they are protected by law and animal rights groups which has made the management difficult for the authorities.

Although it is interesting to see these domesticated hunters go after wild prey rather than feed on food scraps, there are some dire consequences to be considered. In places like Punjab and Haryana, lions, tigers, and other apex predators have long since disappeared. However, the numbers in prey species in those places are relatively stable. But with stray dogs running loose, the populations of blackbuck, sambar, and other herbivores would fluctuate sharply. In addition to that, the local wildlife could also be prone to disease transmission from these animals. I personally think the best way to solve this problem would be to safely capture the dogs and place them in animal shelters for adoption. That way, the wildlife will be safe and there would be no public outrage from the animal rights groups. Killing is not always the answer. These dogs share the same biology as purebred ones kept in people's homes.

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