Van Vihar National Park in Bhopal becomes second home for endangered Barasingha

Lalit Shastri

barasingha_by_Suhas_Kumar
Barasingha (Photo by Suhas Kumar, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest-Wildlife, Madhya Pradesh)

The wildlife Wing of Madhya Pradesh forest department, with active participation of the Kanha Tiger Reserve and Bhopal’s Van Vihar National Park staff has achieved major success by relocating 7 of the hard ground central Indian barasingha from Kanha to Van Vihar.

This is a significant step towards conservation of the ground swamp deer specie, which is on the verge of extinction. Barasingha has the honour of being State Animal of Madhya Pradesh. The swamp deer arrived at Van Vihar today under the supervision of forest officers and veterinary doctors in a specially built vehicle and have been housed in conservation breeding enclosure especially prepared for them.

For translocation of the swamp deer from Kanha Tiger Reserve to Van Vihar, a capture strategy was chalked out after obtaining permission from the Central and state governments. The capture process started in Kanha Tiger Reserve on January 7 from 6 am onwards. Tills 12.30 pm, seven of these rare animals were captured in specially built Boma and sent to Bhopal.

The Capture process was led by Additional Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Suhas Kumar and Kanha Tiger Reserve Field director Jasbir Singh Chouhan. Shubhranjan Sen of Indian Wildlife Institute Dehradun, Director Centre for Wildlife Forensic and Health Dr. A.B. Shrivastava, doctor of Van Vihar Bhopal Dr. Atul Gupta, Assistant Director of Kanha Tiger Reserve Rajneesh Kumar Singh and Dr. Sandeep Agrawal were part of the team that took part in the capture operation.

Mr. Suhas Kumar told Newsroom24x7 that the next step is to reintroduce barasingha in its original range in Satpura–to be precise in the Bori area. “Now this will open up the gates for the next step” he said adding the original plan was to reintroduce barasingha in Satpura where the soft release enclosure has also been developed. The proposal for reintroducing the barasingha in Satpura was pending and National Tiger Conservation Authority finally agreed with the condition that the barasingha should first be brought to Van Vihar to demonstrate the viability of the relocation exercise. The State wildlife wing took this as a huge and unique opportunity to create a gene pool by building a conservation enclosure, said Mr. Kumar.

The central Indian hard ground barasingha is a sub-species of the swamp deer (Cervus duvauceli duvauceli) of the sub-Himalayan terai of north India. It is highly endangered. The Central Indian sub-species, whose historic range covered several districts of the present states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh, is now endemic only to the Kanha National Park and forms the only world population.

The Kanha meadows have grass round the year and the protected area has remained a perfect habitat for tigers and the highly endangered and the only world population of the hard ground barasingha. The historic range of barasingha covered several districts of the present states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh, has remained endemic only to the Kanha National Park for several decades. Even in this part of the globe, the barasingha population came down to such drastic levels that the forest staff had started carrying out a daily attendance to monitor the status of this highly endangered species. Before the conservation initiative was taken up at Kanha, the barasingha was almost on the verge of exticntion. During the late 1960s, their numbers had declined and the count had come down to only 66 and the population was restricted to a small area inside the Kanha National Park.

The central Indian barasingha is a sub-species of the swamp deer (Cervus duvauceli duvauceli) of the sub-Himalayan terai of north India, the Kanha barasingha is a food specialist with a narrow niche, and is an exclusively graminivorous deer species, wholly dependent on grasslands. It is a very handsome deer whose characteristic bugle calls echo through the habitat during the winter, when it is also their mating season. It is a pleasant sight to spot the magnificient male barasingha plucking a typical grass with its antlers and displaying it for the purpose of natural selection in the midst of the Kanha grassland.

According to the Kanha Tiger Reserve Field Director, “the resurrection of the majestic hard ground barasingha in Kanha is by far one of the most inspiring successes in the history of wildlife conservation in the country.” The magnitude of poaching and habitat loss in and around the present national park in the past drove this magnificent deer to almost extinction. In the late 1930s there were around 3000 of the hard ground barasingha.The Supkhar forest range of Kanha, which had lost every single animal by the late 1950s, has now become a safe haven for a small population of barasingha which has now stabilised.

As part of the Kanha conservation initiative, the Kanha Tiger Reserve management has been creating linkages between grasslands for foraging and reclaiming additional grassland habitat through village relocation. These abandoned village sites have started morphing into excellent grasslands and support barasingha dispersal and their multiplication.

Considering various biological constraints and risks of this small population, the wildlife wing of the State Forest department and Kanha management picked Van Vihar National park in Bhopal as an alternative habitat for this deer species where some introduced founder-animals can multiply and maintain another population in the state.

2 comments

  1. With the worthy team that Wild Life wing of M.P. Forest Department is enriched with the wild life conservation is going to go to next level, atmost on daily basis.

    Kudos to the team and the associates.

    Vijay Singh