Population forces Zoo to release 200 deer into wild

Population forces Zoo to release 200 deer into wild

New Home: Ramegowdana Katte in Arabithittu Wildlife Sanctuary, which has been fenced recently to accommodate the translocated deer from Mysore Zoo. The deer will be kept in this fenced area for nearly a month, where they will be fed fodder by the Zoo/fore

Notwithstanding the deer population boom, the Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens, also known as Mysore Zoo, has decided to translocate nearly 200 captive bred hoofed ruminants into the wild from this month-end onwards.

With the state Forest department giving a go-ahead, the Zoo authorities have zeroed-in on the Arabithittu Wildlife Sanctuary near Mysuru as the new home for the deer.

To check uncontrolled growth in the population of prolifically breeding animals, all zoos should implement appropriate population control measures like separation of sexes, sterilisation, vasectomy and tubectomy. As per the Central Zoo Authority guidelines, there shouldn’t be more than 25 deer in a zoo. The deer population, however, has gone unchecked in Mysore Zoo, which has posed the current problem.

The deer will be captured using the South African ‘Boma’ method. They will be brought here in batches and kept here for a period of one or two months, until they get acclimatised to their new surroundings. To ensure that the deer do not become prey to predators like leopards, the authorities have decided to feed them with fodder, until the next batch is brought in.

The local forest officials, however, are worried that translocating the deer, especially to Arabithittu, might prove to be counterproductive. Officials on condition of anonymity said that Arabithittu had one pond, Ramegowdana Katte, which was the only water source for all the wild animals in the forest.

Forest officials also said that this was the worst time to release the deer into the forest. “Arabithittu is a dry deciduous forest, which less than 700 mm annual rainfall. The only water source is the artificially installed solar pumpset. With the onset of summer, there is the fear of forest fires. The deer could have been released in Bandipur or Nagarhole or Melkote forest, which have a good number of water sources,” said an official.

Jayaram, PCCF (Wildlife), however, disagrees. “Due to overpopulation, the deer are suffocating in the zoo. Arabithittu was selected primarily because of its proximity to the zoo.  Deer is a sensitive animal and has to be translocated systematically. A similar exercise was carried out successfully by B P Ravi, member-secretary of Zoo Authority of Karnataka (ZAK), last year. He is overseeing the exercise this time too. Also, we can always augment water resources in Arabithittu,” he added.

Ravi told DH that around 75 herbivores, including black bucks and spotted deer, had been shifted from the Ballari mini zoo to the Vajpayee Zoological Park in Kamalapur near Hampi, last year. “Of the 75, there were only two mortalities. The Boma method is quite effective, as the animal is not harmed in any manner. This is going to be soft release, where deer will be released in batches of the 20s or 30s over a period of many months. Earlier, deer would be transquilised and released into the wild. The mortality rate under this method system is very high. We will also ensure that there is no problem for water in the forest,” he added.

Under the Boma method, deer will be lured into camouflaged and padded trucks filled with fodder. Once the deer enter the vehicle, the door will be shut and the animals will be shifted to the forest soon after.