Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Blackbuck: An Endangered Animal

Black buck male and females At Nannaj Near Sol...Image via WikipediaBy Navodita Maurice

Blackbuck is an antelope species found in India, southern Nepal, and Pakistan and is scientifically known as Antilope cervicapra. It has also been introduced in Argentina and Texas. It is one of the fastest running animals known, running at a speed of 80 km/hour. In few antelope species both male and females can be identified by the body colour. The males have a black and white body with long twisted horns while the females are characterized by brown body colouration and lacking horns. The name has been derived from a Latin word meaning she-goat.

Blackbuck is an animal of India commonly known as Krishna Mriga. It has been declared as the state animal of Andhra Pradesh. It is also known as the Indian antelope. The skin of the Indian antelope deserves special mention. In Hinduism, the Brahmin boys are supposed to wear a strip of unleathered hide prepared from it after performing Upanayanam.

The animal is known to attain a length of 100-150cm with a tail of 10-17cm. Adults weigh about 25-30 kg. The horns of the animal are quite distinctive and are coiled with 1-4 spiral turns but the number may vary. The horns may be as long as 79cm. A trophy blackbuck is larger in length and may measure 46cm.

In the male of the species, the upper surface of the body is black while the belly and the eye rings are white. The females are light brown with no horns. They are usually found roaming the plains in a herd of 15-20 animals with a dominant adult male.

While grazing on the plains, they can run swiftly when attacked by predators. Its chief predator was the Indian cheetah which is now extinct. It is sometimes preyed upon by feral dogs and wolves.

The major food of this animal is made up of grasses but it can also feed on fruits and flowers in order to supplement its diet. The maximum lifespan recorded for antelopes is 16 years but on average they live for about 12 years.

Four subspecies of antelopes are known. Albinism in these animals is rare and is caused by a lack of the pigment melanin. When melanin is absent the animal looks fully white.

In earlier times, they were found over large tracts of India except for North East India, but at present they are present in Maharashtra, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka with a few small pockets in Central India. Sometimes they can be seen grazing with Axis Deer, Chital, Nilgai and Barasingha.

The main threats to these animals are poaching, predation, habitat destruction, overgrazing, disease, inbreeding and sanctuary visitors. Blackbuck is mainly hunted for its flesh and skin.

The Indian government has now strictly prohibited the killing of these endangered animals. They are protected in India under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. One of the most popular Indian film stars, Salman Khan, was sentenced to five years imprisonment for killing two blackbucks and several endangered chinkaras. At present only 50,000 individuals remain alive.

Navodita Maurice

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