The State-run Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) has joined hands with the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) to come to the rescue of the endangered sub-species of the eastern swamp deer.

The conservation programme was launched at the Kaziranga National Park in Assam. All of the 681 remaining eastern swamp deer in the world can only be found at the park. The animal, earlier found in Pakistan and Bangladesh, has become extinct in these two countries. The number of this herbivore is far lesser than that of the Royal Bengal tiger or the greater one-horned rhinoceros.

World's highest concentration of tigers

The Kaziranga National Park has the world's highest concentration of tigers (32 per 100 sq. km). It also houses 55 per cent of the one-horned rhinos in the world and 80 per cent of the Asiatic water buffaloes.

According to ONGC officials, the aim of the initiative is to assist the Assam Forest Department in the long-term conservation of the eastern swamp deer with an assistance of Rs.85 lakh. “Initially, the project will run for three years, and if it becomes successful it will be extended to other protected areas,” said ONGC General Manager (CSR) S. Gopinath.

Creating new populations

The project entails assessing population dynamics, threats and factors limiting the deer's growth and distribution for implementing a conservation strategy. This includes the creation of new viable populations outside the park, if necessary.

Epidemic insurance

Epidemic insurance for the swamp deer is a vital component of the project. “Diseases transmitted from the livestock could be disastrous for this population. Besides, a single population is prone to the effects of inbreeding — depression, making it more vulnerable,” said WTI executive trustee P.C. Bhattacharjee.