After leopards, his next target is blue bulls. Even as he rushed home after an 18-day ordeal in tackling man-eater leopards in Himachal Pradesh, the Hyderabadi marksman Nawab Shafath Ali Khan has received an SOS from the Bihar government. This time to ‘cull’ blue bulls in different parts of the State.
The Asian antelopes, also known as ‘Nilgai’ are giving a tough time to farmers in Bihar damaging standing crops. During the last 10 years the blue bulls have multiplied greatly and they are now wreaking havoc on the agricultural fields, forest officials there reportedly said. Mr. Khan is a shooter whose services are availed of by forest departments of different States to train their personnel in the art of precision shooting of tranquilising gun ever since he had successfully shot the man-eaters. He has already imparted training to Rangers, Deputy Rangers and Forest Guards in Himachal Pradesh, Bihar and even the Hyderabad Nehru Zoological Park.
Having received much flak from conservationists, Mr. Khan says tranquilising man-eaters in the hilly terrain is next to impossible. The syringe which carries compressed medicine has to hit the hind quarters of the animal and not the neck or thoracic region.
“Incorrect placement of the tranquilising dart will result in the death of the animal,” he explains.
The scientific method of identifying the territory of man-eaters, using Google, was followed in the Thunag village of Himachal Pradesh.
The pug marks lifted after using the Plaster of Paris method gave a wealth of information about the gender, size and age of the wild cats. “On one occasion, two leopards with their cubs were sighted in the man-eater territory. But I spared them giving them the benefit of doubt,” says Mr. Khan, indicating he is not trigger-happy as being made out.
In recent months he has also culled some ‘rogue’ antelopes in Rajgir town in Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s home district of Nalanda in Bihar. Now, the forest authorities have asked him to rush to tackle the problem in other areas. The burgeoning blue bulls have created serious problem particularly in the districts of Muzaffarpur, Bhojpur, Vaishali, Samistipur and Champaran. “Fresh orders have been issued to cull 10 more blue bulls,” confirmed Basheer Ahmed Khan, Chief Wildlife Warden, Bihar.
The government had empowered the Collectors and Sub-Divisional Magistrates to issue the ‘shoot orders’ under Section 11 (A) of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
“Nilgais come under Schedule III of the Act and the State government can issue orders to eliminate them when they become dangerous to human life and property,” Mr. Khan said.
However, the culling orders are given in a restricted way and with certain conditions. The Hyderabadi ‘hunter’ had culled 10 blue bulls during May and five in February. The Rajgir Wildlife Sanctuary spread over 36 sq. km has sufficient prey base for the predators and the culling of the blue bulls would in no way affect them, Mr. Khan said.
Antelopes take shelter on the banks of the Panchnave River during day and raid the fields in the night, he said, adding that the rampaging herds of Nilgai have destroyed paddy, wheat and vegetables in the last few months causing huge losses to the farmers.