Saturday, April 18, 2015

Indian Gazelles Documented in Southern Karnataka


A team of conservationists and researchers from the Nature Conservation Foundation recording the leopard population of Karnataka last week were taken by surprise when their camera traps revealed a herd of chinkaras or Indian gazelles across vast stretches of dry lands close to the city of Bangalore. The animals were spotted at Bukkapatna State Forest in Sira and Gubbi taluk of Tumakuru district. Out of the 200-plus cameras that were set up to record any leopard movement, several of them captured chinkaras indicating that there is a large population of these magnificent antelopes. Known locally as "sanna hulle," chinkaras were documented for the first time in southern Karnataka and probably for the second time in the state as a whole. According to wildlife biologist Sanjay Gubbi, who has been initiating the study on leopards, the gazelles are thought to have existed rarely in northern Karnataka bordering the states of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra but this was the first time they were documented in southern Karnataka. He further added that they could have been living in the southern part of the state, but none of scientists and researchers have recorded them and even the locals may have mistaken them for blackbucks.

It is a very astounding discovery that chinkaras have been sighted in southern Karnataka. Earlier, it was believed that blackbucks and four-horned antelopes, known locally as "chousingha" (four horns), are the most widely recorded antelopes. But now, the unexpected documentation of chinkaras in southern Karnataka has marked a breakthrough in the abundance of antelopes in the state. The reason is because the gazelles were thought to have existed in numbers so sparse that local people could have mistaken them for blackbucks. Nonetheless, the documentation of chinkaras is a clear indication that proper measures should be taken to ensure their survival. These magnificent antelopes, like most grassland-dwelling animals are under threat by agriculture, industrial development, and predation by feral dogs. They are also threatened by poaching, and no case received much public attention than that of Bollywood actor Salman Khan who was accused of allegedly hunting this gazelle, along with the blackbuck, in the late 1990s. While the case is still pending, poaching incidents involving chinkara still occur in India's arid areas. This is why it is extremely crucial to undertake necessary measurements to guarantee the protection of these magnificent antelopes and implement forceful methods in targeting poachers intent on illegally killing them.

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