There is no forest near Kothapalayam, a village located along the border of Coimbatore and Tirupur districts. But it is home to almost 300 spotted deer. All thanks to an 86-acre-pond belonging to the PWD and the efforts of two men, C. Balasundaram and his uncle R. Gurusamy.
The mission of the two men was to save the spotted deer species (Axis axis) from poachers and ensure that their village turned into an ideal habitat for the animals. “Fifteen years ago, a couple of deer made their way here through a canal from Kurudimalai in Thadagam area. The canal merges with the river Noyyal at Mangalam, just a couple of kilometres away. They have thrived here and their population is now close to 300,” says Mr. Guruswamy.
Mr. Balasundaram and Mr. Gurusamy spend most of their time guarding and nursing the deer population. A portion of Mr. Gurusamy's 24-acre land holding has been set aside for agriculture; the rest is home for the deer population. Holding a new-born fawn, Mr. Balasundaram narrates how they developed a passion for these deer. This fawn, for instance, was rescued after it was attacked by dogs. Now, it is being nursed at Mr Gurusamy's house. Mr. Balasundaram feeds it grass and milk from a feeding bottle. Also, there is a ready stock of medicines to treat the injured deer.
The two men are worried since as many as five deer were victims of road accidents and dog attacks from November 2010 to August this year. The uncle-nephew duo also apprehended three poachers and recovered a muzzle loader gun from them. They were handed over to the Forest Department.
They have to put up with deer haters too. Water shortage coupled with crop damage due to foraging are cited as reasons by those opposed to the presence of deer here. They also have to deal with poachers and those who kill deer for its meat.
Despite all this, what keeps their passion alive is one factor — the joy of seeing deer near your doorstep. “Elsewhere, people spend money to go to the forest to see deer,” says Mr. Guruasamy who also believes it is everyone's duty to protect animals. Not just deer, the two have even saved a civet cat, which falls under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act. The cat is hunted for its heady-smelling secretion, used in the perfume industry. Both of them have approached authorities to evolve measures to ensure protection of the deer.
The then Tirupur District Collector C. Samayamoorthy visited the place and in consultation with the Tirupur District Forest Officer Rajkumar, a forest staff was posted for the area to prevent poaching of the animals. Mr. Gurusamy suggests that the PWD tank could be beautified and turned into a recreation or picnic spot for the people to enjoy the sight of the deer. Mr. Gurusamy says the Forest Department could not spend funds on a tank belonging to the PWD and the PWD could not hand it over to the Forest Department as they did not have the expertise to look after tank maintenance.
In the absence of a reply from the administration, Mr. Gurusamy says that he could not go ahead in creating the infrastructure for protecting the deer even though there were sponsors.
Some villagers have created hurdles too. To provide water to the deer population, a bore well in a nearby farm was identified and with the consent of the owner, pipe lines were laid for pumping water from the bore well into a pit in the tank to quench the thirst of the animals. But some miscreants had dismantled the pipeline. Now, Gurusamy provides water from his farm's bore well by pumping it to a tank constructed half-a-kilometre away.
Mr. Gurusamy and Mr. Balasundaram fervently hope the Government will step in to ensure the deer are allowed to thrive in Kothapalayam.