Friday, January 15, 2010

Bison translocation Bandhavgarh Wildlife Refuge

Bisons in Bandhavgarh were the only population that survived North of the River Narmada in MP, India. The last remaining populations which I saw in late seventies numbered around sixty four animals. The number subsequently went down to about thirty two animals and then perished in late nineties.

The bison (Gaur) of Bandhavgarh are the same species as found in Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh, India. The present population at Kanha Tiger Reserve is over 600 animals. The project to trans locate few heads to Bandhavgarh from Kanha or Pench is a good move. The trans location project augurs hope for the animal to survive in another pocket which was home to their erstwhile brethren.

Bison species is by nature local migratory. Being a coarse feeder it moves up the hills in neighbouring forest. In case of Bandhavgarh the population was supposed to migrate to Ghunguhti forests near by. In summer the Gaur herd moved to mainly Raj Bohera meadow in Bandhavgarh. This local migration in summer is to get fodder in form of grass and water as the food/water supply diminishes up the hills. This is also nature way of controlling over grazing at one place.

The problems I presume with the trans location of Bison would be that the animals will be penned for some time, this is in contrary to their nature. What would be better that if the trans located herd desires to express movement, it should be allowed to do so under supervision. The animals should be constantly tracked and monitored. The imperative would be inoculation of disease among live stock in the surroundings. This is the primary reason why Bison did nit survive in the park. The animals are susceptible to rinderpest, foot and mouth disease mainly, and the carriers are the live stock.

It would interesting to see if animals migrate accurately in unknown habitat. Does their instinct built up over thousands of years direct them to safe secure place with food and water supply?

How would trans located wild animal population fare in a suitable but unknown ecosystem?

Another important intervention initially would be protection of fawns by tigers. At Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve the tiger density in the forest zones is very high. Threat to the fawns would be substantial in this park. Large tigers also prey on adult bison successfully. Like the Swamp Deer project at Kanha, fawn predation control would be of great help in this endeavour.

But protection from disease, enabling local migration would be an impertinent if the Bison project has to succeed.

For how long will we be able to resort to human intervention - can't we learn to protect wildlife better in order to avoid such contingencies?

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