Female Blackbuck herd Pic: Aditya Kshirsagar
By Taazakhabar News Bureau
Recent research by a team of scientists from Wildlife Conservation Society India Program, Centre for Wildlife Studies, Centre for Ecological Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science and Manipal University, has found that wild animals canavoid extinction and persist in human-dominated landscapes by modifying the way they use habitat. Food resource distribution and availability is a critical factor for the survival of wild ungulates and food sources can vary seasonally in quality and quantity, as well spatial distribution.
This new study examined how blackbuck –a near threatened species- decide to use habitats which are characterized by seasonally changing resources, threats of predators, intensive human pressures, more so, conversion of habitat by humans.
The study was conducted in Maharashtra’s Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary and is representative of most semi-arid landscapes in India. It is a protected grassland, surrounded by fragments of unprotected grassland patches and agricultural lands, characterized by intensive human pressure and presence of natural predators like the Indian Wolf.
Male Blackbuck Pic: Chaitanya Krishna
The researchers found that blackbuck preferred to stay in the safety of the sanctuary when food was abundant, to avoid the risks associated with humans and livestock. But as food declined after the monsoon, blackbuck began to move into riskier unprotected grasslands,thus responding dynamically to seasonally changing levels of food and risks in different parts of the landscape.
The authors observe that as blackbucks make seasonal changes in their movements in desperate search for food, they venture into more risky areas located outside the sanctuary.Chaitanya Krishna, lead author of the study and alumni of NCBS-WCS MSc Program writes, “We found that when blackbucks moved into areas of high risk, presence of small sanctuaries or ‘refuges’ in landscapes with high human-use, allowed these antelopes to survive and forage”.
Funded by the Indian Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in New Delhi, this study examined how blackbuck reacted to the costs and benefits of living in this habitat.
Researchers also measured the amount and quality of grass, the major blackbuck food source, and identified risky areas, where blackbuck were most likely to come across wolves, dogs or humans. Dr. Ajith Kumar, co-author of the study and Director of NCBS-WCS MSc Program says, “These factors need to be taken into consideration as more grasslands are converted and developed for human use”. Dr. KavitaIsvaran adds, “This study shows that it might perhaps be possible for wildlife and human interests to be met simultaneously, provided that wildlife are offered well-protected refuges, such as the small protected areas that constitute the Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary”.
The study was authored by Chaitanya Krishna, Ajith Kumar and KavitaIsvara on behalf of Wildlife Conservation Society, Centre for Wildlife Studies and Centre for Ecological Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science.