Andhra Pradesh

Poachers make merry in Dowleswaram

The blackbuck was declared the State animal by the Andhra Pradesh Environment and Forest Department in early 2018.

The blackbuck was declared the State animal by the Andhra Pradesh Environment and Forest Department in early 2018.   | Photo Credit: Nagara Gopal

There is not a single animal tracker in the natural habitat of the blackbucks

Declared the State animal in 2018, the natural habitat of the blackbuck, Dowleswaram, does not have even a single tracker to address existential threats such as poaching.

In March 2017, an independent wildlife activist had for the first time documented the death of three Indian Antelopes (Blackbuck - Antilope cervicapra) in Pitchuka Lanka island near Dowleswaram Barrage in East Godavari district.

The field-level investigation also documented a blackbuck with injuries on her entire body and a baby in her womb, highlighting the conflict of the animal with its rivals - poachers and dogs - on the banks of the Godavari. The Hindu has in its possession copies of photographs of the three blackbucks found dead in Pitchuka Lanka.

On condition of anonymity, the wildlife activist told The Hindu: "Farmers in the blackbuck habitat from Dowleswaram to Ravulapalem have confirmed poaching by outsiders. Farmers in the islands of Pitchuka Lanka and others were found to be keeping track of the poachers. However, their role is minimal in preventing poaching."

Until 2018-end, the territorial wing had deployed a single ‘Animal Tracker’, whose task is to track blackbuck poachers and update higher officials to swing into action, if needed.

"The lone animal tracker quit the job a year ago. Now, the habitat does not have any tracker on the ground. Recently, the presence of blackbucks was recorded in new islands near Dowleswaram," Forest Range Officer (Kakinada-Territorial Wing) L. Dhanraj told The Hindu.

The entire blackbuck habitat falls in the ‘Unprotected’ area under the jurisdiction of the territorial forest wing that needs to join hands with the wildlife wing to chalk out a conservation plan.

Community Reserve

According to highly-placed sources, there is a proposal to declare a portion of the blackbuck habitat, particularly Pitchuka Lanka, into the ‘Community Reserve’.

The presence of nearly 150 blackbucks was estimated by the Forest Department in 2017. However, no census had been carried out to ascertain the number of blackbucks in this habitat.

Andhra Pradesh Co-ordinator, Indian Bird Conservation Network, K. Mrutyunjaya Rao, told The Hindu: "The row of islands near the Dowleswaram Barrage has been a safe natural habitat of blackbucks over the past three decades. The habitat needs to have a dedicated conservation plan".

In summer, blackbucks tend to venture out from their habitat for water, which leaves them vulnerable to attacks from poachers and dogs. The blackbuck falls in the Schedule - 1 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

The blackbuck was declared the State animal by the State Environment and Forest Department in early 2018.

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 9:58:44 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/poachers-make-merry-in-dowleswaram/article30653380.ece

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