The vast plains of central South India famously known as the Deccan Plateau extends over the states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. The dry arid lands of this plateau, though devoid of dense jungles and tall trees, have their own biodiversity suited to the temperature and topography of the area. Blackbucks have found these dry undulating plains ideal for habitation. Apart from the famed Ranebennur sanctuary for blackbucks, the second largest concentration of this species can be found near Madhugiri in Tumkur district.
Bordering Andhra Pradesh along the road from Madhugiri to Hindupur is Maidanahalli, a nondescript town that has not seen much development. However, the village has been gaining popularity over the last few years as an ideal destination for those willing to get a glimpse of the beautiful blackbucks.
First step in blackbuck conservation
It was in the 1980s that the presence of blackbucks in these parts was noted first. But no efforts were made in terms of protecting the animals as the land in question was under the Revenue Department. In 1992, the first step in blackbuck conservation was taken with the jurisdiction of the area shifting to the forest department. Not much headway was made until 1997 when the Tumkur-based Wildlife Aware Nature Club (WANC) along with officials of the Wildlife Wing of the Forest Department conducted the first-ever census of blackbucks and published a survey report.
Persistent efforts by naturalists and wildlife enthusiasts over the next decade saw to it that the Department declared the area as the Jayamangali Blackbuck Conservation Reserve in 2007. The efforts were successful as the population of blackbucks increased to 600 from about 400 a few years ago. Today, the conservation area spread over three sq. kms, is home not only to these animals but also to smaller game like jackals, mongooses, cats and snakes.
The avi fauna here is also noteworthy with 130 species of birds and more than 60 varieties of butterflies. Among the birds commonly noticed are the colourful green bee eaters and shrikes while raptors like the Marsh Harrier perched on little mounds of earth can be watched frequently. The blackbuck is a lovely antelope commonly called Krishnamruga in Kannada. Living in herds of about 15-20 females with a dominating male, they prefer the meadows feeding on the grass.
Their main predator, the Indian cheetah having become extinct, the only animals they need to watch out for are the wolves and jackals. Though the blackbucks are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, scattered poaching affects the steady growth of their population. But the major problem that has a bearing on their well-being is habitat destruction. Unlimited encroachment of arable land by human beings has meant not only a shrunken area for the survival of blackbucks, but a greater chance that the animals might contract diseases from cattle that share grazing lands. The conservation area itself lacks any kind of fencing and entry to the area is unregulated. Also, the presence of human beings to the extent of disturbing free movement of these animals has become an issue.
Drive on NH 4 to Dobbspet and take a deviation to the right on Koratagere road. It can also be reached from Tumkur.
From Madhugiri, drive on the road going eastwards to Hindupur for 10 kms to Puravara village, turn left here and proceed for another eight kms where a mud road going right leads to the entrance with the board. Food and water are to be carried. For camping overnight, permission from the ACF/RFO at Madhugiri or DCF at Tumkur is required. Madhugiri is 110kms from Bangalore.