Black bucks bouncing back



Posted on 10 September 2004  | 
Kathmandu, Nepal - After a low of just nine animals in 1975, a recent count of Nepal's black buck (Antelope cervicapra) population has shown that the population has increased to 99.
 
The black buck's beautiful spiral horn made the animal a popular hunting trophy in the early 1950s. However, heavy hunting pushed the herds roaming Nepal’s lowland districts of Banke, Bardia, Kailali, and Kanchanpur to the brink of extinction. By 1975, when conservation efforts to save the species finally began, Nepal had a total of just nine black bucks. 

Thanks to conservation efforts — which have long been supported by WWF-Nepal — the population reached a peak of 177 animals in 1989. However a decade later, this had dropped to 50 due to rapidly shrinking natural habitats, food competition with domestic animals, and reprisal killings by farmers. Stray dogs, hyenas, and jackals also occasionally prey upon the animals.

"Black bucks love to graze in open, short grassland. Encroachment of its natural habitat, generally in fringe areas near humans, poses a great threat to the species' survival," says Shyam Bajimay, an ecologist at Nepal's Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC).

The Khairapur area of Bardia district, in the southwest of Nepal, is now the last refuge for black bucks in the country. To prevent the antelopes from raiding crops, mesh wire fences have been put up near human settlements. This and other conservation measures have resulted in a steady rise in the population, with a recent count recording 99 animals. 

A 527-hectare Black Buck Conservation Area in Khairapur has also been proposed for the species. Located 36km south of Royal Bardia National Park, the conservation area is still awaiting formal endorsement from the government. All the people living in the area have been compensated and most have resettled outside the area.

"The proposed Black Buck Conservation Area is the result of concerted efforts by the DNPWC, the Department of Forests, line agencies of His Majesty’s Government of Nepal, partner conservation organizations, and representatives of local people," says Gopal P Upadhyay, Chief Warden of Royal Bardia National Park.  

Royal Bardia National Park is providing technical support to a committee that supervises the management of the proposed conservation area. User groups for local people’s stewardship in conservation have also been formed, and game scouts man a guard post at Khairapur.  

WWF-Nepal's current support to the conservation of the black buck is part of its Terai Arc Landscape Programme, which aims to restore and reconnect 11 national parks in Nepal and India to create one continuous Terai Arc landscape. The work includes species conservation, awareness raising, income generation, and capacity building. 

Located in the shadow of the Himalayas, the Terai Arc covers 5 million hectares from Nepal's Bagmati River in the east to India's Yamuna River in the west. The rich grasslands and forests provide critical habitat not only for black buck, but also greater one-horned rhinoceros, royal Bengal tigers, Asian elephants, 80 other mammal species, 47 reptile and amphibian species, 556 bird species, and more then 2,100 flowering plant species. The region is also home to more than 6 million people who depend on its resources for their livelihoods.

The Terai Arc forms part of the Terai Duar Savannas and Grasslands ecoregion, one of WWF's Global 200 ecoregions — a science-based global ranking of the world's most biologically outstanding habitats and the regions on which WWF concentrates its efforts.

For further information:
Trishna Gurung 
Communications Officer, WWF-Nepal
Tel: +977 1 4410942 
E-mail: trishna.gurung@wwfnepal.org
Black buck (Antilope cervicapra), Royal Bardia National Park, Nepal.
© WWF-Canon / Jeff Foott Enlarge

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