Wildlife & Biodiversity

Blackbuck haven in Odisha: Protection by locals triple numbers

No poaching case reported in several years in Ganjam district

By Hrusikesh Mohanty
Published: Monday 13 February 2023
Blackbucks move freely in Odisha’s Ganjam district. Photo: Hrusikesh Mohanty

The blackbuck population has increased threefold in Odisha’s Ganjam district, the only habitat of the most elegant member of the antelope family in the state, over 12 years.

A total of 7,743 blackbucks were counted in the district in the latest biannual census conducted by the state’s forest department on January 29, 2023. The population was 2,194 in 2011.

Their population was estimated at 7,352 in 2021 and 6,885 in 2020, according to official sources.

Read more: Great Indian bustard in pics: Mighty, but critically endangered

The blackbuck is a Schedule 1 animal per the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. The species is listed as ‘near threatened’ in the global organisation International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List.

Ganjam, a southern Odisha district, is the only habitat of this mammal at present. Blackbucks were sighted in the Balukhand-Konark wildlife sanctuary in the Puri district through 2012-13; however, they have now vanished from the area.

There are 4,753 females, 1,472 males and 1,518 young, according to the latest estimation, sources said. The most number of blackbucks were sighted in the Ghumusar South division (4,636) and least number of sightings happened in the Ghumusar North division (350).

Similarly, 2,757 blackbucks were found in the Berhampur forest division, official sources said.

Improvement of habitats and protection by the local people and forest staff are some of the reasons behind the increase of the blackbuck population in the district, said Dillip Kumar Rout, divisional forest officer (DFO) Ghumusar South.

Reasons like road accidents, fighting and dog bites have caused a few blackbuck deaths, but not a single poaching case has been reported in the last few years in the area, he added.

Like the Bishnoi tribe community of western Rajasthan and the Vala Rajputs of Saurashtra, the people of Ganjam district in Odisha protect the blackbuck, as its sightings are considered an indicator of good luck. The practice has continued for the past several years, said SS Srivastav, former wildlife warden of Odisha.

Read more: Which way ahead for biodiversity conservation? Answer may lie in communities

“It’s a common belief that the more the animals eat, the higher the agricultural yield,” said Jitshatru Mohanty, a retired senior forest officer. Despite the damage by blackbucks to crops, the locals continued to provide protection to them religiously over the years.

“The people of the region believe the sighting of the blackbuck in the paddy field is a harbinger of good luck,” said the president of the Blackbuck Protection Committee (Ganjam) Amulya Upadhyaya.

People believe the creatures break long drought spells and bless the area with plenty of food and wealth. The government does not protect the region — the animal freely roams due to the shelter by the villagers, he said.

Blackbucks were sighted in Balipadar-Bhetanai near Aska in the district only about a decade ago. Now, their population has spread to several parts of the district, Upadhyaya said. “We have been creating awareness among the people along with the forest personnel to protect the blackbucks,” he added.

Yearwise estimations of blackbuck population


Number of blackbucks













Meadow development programmes for increasing food, water and safety of the animal had been taken up in the area under the Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats scheme, Rout added.

Read more: ‘State protection for wildlife not a panacea for conservation’

Salt licks and water holes have been created for the improvement of their habitat. A watch tower and a rescue-cum-treatment centre have been established in the area to treat the injured blackbucks as well.

Speed breakers and road humps have been installed in vulnerable areas to prevent accidents at road crossings, which are the major cause of the death of the blackbucks, the DFO said.

Apart from these, signages have been installed advising the drivers to reduce the speed limit of the vehicles in the habitat areas of the blackbuck. Every year, seven or eight blackbucks die due to road mishaps, Rout said.

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