Big boost to blackbuck conservation at IIT-M

    P. Oppili
    Vasudha Venugopal
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A considerable increase in the population of blackbuck, an endangered ungulate, has been reported in the IIT-M campus here.

According to available data the blackbuck population was a dozen during 2006, which has reached 34 during a recent census.

R.J. Ranjit Daniels of Chennai-based CareEarth, a biodiversity research organisation, said during 2006 there were reports of dwindling blackbuck population on the IIT-M campus. At that time, the population was recorded to be 12. Following this, the IIT authorities entrusted the work of documenting the biodiversity on the premises to CareEarth.

A team of trained biologists was roped in for the work and it identified the precise number of blackbucks, both male and female. The team also mapped the critical blackbuck habitat on the premises.

Proliferation of Prosopis juliflora (Veli Kaathan in Tamil) had been identified as one of the reasons for the dwindling population. Another issue was the cutting of trees. Thirdly, the team declared that critical habitats be declared as ‘No Development Zones’. The IIT authorities agreed to look into the three suggestions made by the team.

As a first step, the IIT authorities removed prosopis from a small area, where bamboo was planted. This helped in the growth of native grass species. The blackbuck was made the flagship species on the campus, and the IIT authorities were guided by a conservation plan. Census on the blackbuck population was taken up annually.

In 2008, the second counting was done, which showed an increase of eight animals. The third counting was done in 2010 in which nearly 25 animals were recorded. From 2010 onward the census was done every year, Dr. Daniels said.

“Careful and well-informed development led to the recovery of the species in the campus. The results showed how conservation can be balanced with development. Even in a densely populated area careful planning can help increase the wildlife population,” he added.

IIT-Madras Director Bhaskar Ramamurthi said the institute, in recent years, had taken all steps possible to increase the blackbuck population.

“We have taken the help of experts to see the best measures are implemented. Since a lot of construction work is under way on the campus, we are taking extra care to see all the recommended measures are followed.”



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