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These villagers revere black bucks

June 20, 2005 15:38 IST

Black bucks maybe facing the gun elsewhere, but people in Orissa's Ganjam district have vowed to protect the endangered antelope at all costs.

Like the Bishnoi community of Western Rajasthan and the Vala Rajputs of Saurashtra, people of sixty villages of the district have come together to ensure the protection of black bucks.

So when herds of black bucks invaded their land and destroyed huge quantity of standing crop, no one appeared to mind.

"We feel it's a sacrilege to prevent the animals from feasting on our crops. The common belief is that the more number of black bucks devour our crop the more the yield will be," Rama Pradhan, a farmer in Bhetanai, said.

Folklore has it that the area once had a severe drought and virtually no yield. Villagers spotted a black buck in one of the villages after which the rains came.

The inhabitants of Aska, Buguda, Jagannath Prasad, Polasara, Purushottampur and Khallikote Blocks -- where black bucks are found -- recently decided to notify the area as the Ghumusar black buck community reserve under the relevant provision of the Wildlife Protection (amendment) Act, 2002, Conservator of Forest, Berhampur, S S Srivastava said.

He added that the declaration of 'community reserve' was a new concept in the Act and it was added as there was no sanctuary to extend protection to black bucks.

Prior to the amendment of the act, the Balipadar-Bhetanai area, comprising 64.21 sq km was declared as a game reserve in 1989 for providing protection to black bucks and their habitat.

Since the relevant section had been deleted when the new amendment came through, the area was no longer protected, he said.

The area, however, is home to the country's second largest population of black bucks, numbering 780 -- next only to Gujarat's Visatpura -- though it was not even a wildlife sanctuary.  

"Due to the protection of the people, the population of the black bucks in the area has increased marginally," said Ei Yanger Aier, Divisional Forest Officer of Ghumusar South division.

According to him, the number of black bucks stood at 551 in 1998, which had increased to 786 in March 2004.

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