75 storm-struck black buck die in Rajasthan wildlife sanctuary

Forest officials said the animals were frightened by the sudden thunder, lightning and heavy rain that had lashed the sanctuary. The worst hit were the aged and the weak — those in the age group of 10 and fawns —Surat Singh Punia, forest ranger of the sanctuary told Deccan Herald on the  phone.
The region, known for its peak hot and low temperature, witnessed unprecedented storm and torrential rain, perhaps the most severe in the past 50 years. Punia said Tal Chhapar recorded nearly 217 mm rainfall over the weekend, higher than the total annual rainfall the region receives.
Rescue operation is also not easy as these antelopes shy away from any human activity. It’s also very difficult to tranquillise them for treatment but a team of veterinary doctors is camping in the sanctuary along with forest officials. So far, 75  bodies have been recovered but the toll could go up, he feared.
He, however, maintained that the animals did not drown in the flash floods caused by the heavy rain. The sanctuary, falling under the country’s principal arid zone which  get erratic rainfall, used to get submerged whenever there is heavy rain. But, after salt mining was started in the watershed, this problem has been taken care of, Punia said.
The famous sanctuary, situated 210 kms northwest of Jaipur, is home to one of the most elegant antelopes—the black buck —and some rare species of migratory birds.
Located on the fringes of the Great Indian Desert, the sanctuary was once the game reserve of Bikaner ruler Ganga Singh. The sanctuary was declared a wildlife protected area reserve in 1962. It has almost flat tract and interspersed shallow low- lying areas making the water flow through the area and collect in the small seasonal water ponds. Though the sanctuary is less frequented by tourists as compared with the Ranthambhor and Keoladeo National Park, intensive efforts in the past five years have led to an influx of black buck population here, Punia said.
The just-concluded census in May recorded nearly 2,000 black buck there. It is perhaps the second largest black buck sanctuary in the country after Gujarat. The gradual shrinking of natural habitat in other parts of the country and Indian sub-continent has led to the disappearance of these antelopes from many regions, he added. The natural habitat of Tal Chhapar is conducive to black buck population and the animals specially love the Mothiya grass resembling a very fine round shaped pearl which is sweet in taste. The sanctuary is also home to a variety of migratory birds, including demoiselle cranes, harriers, great Imperial eagle and black Ibis.
Tal Chhpar sanctuary is now part of the tourist map of Rajasthan tourism and the previous BJP regime had also announced a project for its development as an eco tourism and wildlife tourism spot. The project included a five-year action plan amounting Rs 2.82 crore for the integrated development of the sanctuary.

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