Wildlife & Biodiversity

This summer, Bihar’s blackbucks won’t have to stray from their parched natural habitats for water

Local supply of drinking water will prevent them from wandering into human habitats & become vulnerable to poaching

By Mohd Imran Khan
Published: Monday 22 April 2024
Photo: Author provided

This summer will probably be a little more bearable for the endangered blackbucks of Bihar’s Bhojpur, Buxar and Rohtas districts, as they will not have to travel long distances in search of water under the scorching sun. 

Forest officials in the districts, which forms the antelope’s natural habitat, have been directed to ensure the over two dozen waterholes are filled with water using tankers.

Hundreds of blackbucks roam freely near the forest and riverine belts of these districts as well as the neighbouring Kaimur district in search of water and food. They are categorised as ‘endangered’ in the Red List of Threatened Species maintained by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. There is no official record of their population in these districts.

Every year for a few months during summer, the temperatures in these districts soar above 42-43 degrees Celsius. As the local waterbodies like ponds, ahars, payns dry up, the blackbucks have to travel long distances to find a source of drinking water. This is when they also become the most vulnerable to poaching as they are forced to venture into human habitation, according to experts. 

Last summer, a blackbuck died due to thirst in Sandesh area in Bhojpur. Local Hindi dailies have also reported in the past that a herd of blackbucks were forced to move from one place to another, sometimes 10-15 km to quench their thirst.

In the view of such reports, last summer, the forest officials decided to provide a constant supply of water in the waterholes. 

Manish Kumar Verma, district forest official, Rohtas, told Down To Earth:

There were 20-25 old waterholes and this year 11 new waterholes were constructed for the blackbucks. It is a move to help them to stay in their natural habitat.

These water points have become a lifeline for the blackbucks amid heatwave-like conditions in the state. The India Meteorological Department has predicted that these districts will record temperatures over 43°C in the next two days. 

Vikas Ahlawat, DFO, Bhojpur, said water in waterholes will help blackbucks not to stray into human habitations in search of water during summer. “Blackbucks are vulnerable to poaching and they easily get trapped during search for water.”

The riverine belt and adjacent forests — the natural habitat of the blackbucks — are regularly threatened by destructive floods in Ganga and Sone rivers, according to an additional chief conservator of forest.

The department is working to create a 12-acre rescue centre for the antelopes, which is also a part of a conservation drive for the endangered blackbucks, in Buxar. The move comes nearly a decade after a blackbuck safari project to attract tourists, generate revenue and create awareness for their conservation was scrapped by the same government before it could take off.

The antelopes survive on vegetation, mainly grass, on fields cultivated by farmers and crops, said experts. Local communities are friendly to them and never attempt to hurt them for damaging standing crops due to religious beliefs. They also protect them from hunters.

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