Manas swamp deer hope on Kaziranga

Kaziranga seems to be the only hope for Manas to restore its eastern swamp deer population.

A draft recovery plan prepared by the Wildlife Trust of India for swamp deer of Manas has called for restocking from Kaziranga National Park as well as management of the existing tall, wet grassland areas in the park.

“There is not enough scientific work being done on swamp deer. We have started the groundwork by studying source population of the species in Kaziranga,” Rathin Burman, coordinator of Wildlife Trust of India in Assam, told The Telegraph.

The plan calls for erecting an enclosure at the reintroduction site in Manas. The animals, once translocated from Kaziranga, will be confined to this enclosure for acclimatisation as well as to minimise predation. This should also facilitate breeding of the animals. Prior to the release in the wilds of Manas, the animals will be radio collared.

“It is a long way out for translocation but it can happen,” Barman said.

To make a recovery plan, it is always important to know the reasons behind the declining population of the species.

Sources said the plan was prepared on the recommendation of a joint UNESCO-IUCN reactive monitoring mission, which visited Manas World Heritage Site in January to review the ground situation in order to make recommendations for removal of the site from the List of World Heritage Sites in Danger.

The recovery plan has been prepared on the guidelines of the Union ministry of environment and forests.

Two populations of the deer sub-species continue to exist in Assam, with 650 of these being sighted in Kaziranga National Park and 15 to 20 in Manas National Park.

Prior to the civil unrest in 1990s, Manas harboured a healthy population of swamp deer.

During the insurgency period that spanned over a decade-and-a-half, the swamp deer population of Manas witnessed a rapid decline. The present population is estimated to be less than 20.

“Protection measures have been strengthened under Indian Rhino Vision 2020 in Manas and will be enough to safeguard the translocated the animal,” a park official in Manas said.

The divisional officer of Eastern Assam Wildlife Division, D.D. Gogoi, said the population of the swamp deer in Kaziranga is stable and found mainly in five areas of the national park. They are scattered in 18 locations in the national park.

The 2011 census of swamp deer population has pegged it at 1,169, up from 681 in 2008.

“It would be difficult to tell whether the animal can be translocated as of now as several issues have to be looked into,” Gogoi said.

The plan calls for carrying out a detailed analysis of possible swamp deer habitats (tall wet grasslands) at Manas World Heritage Site using remotely sensed data.

All the identified tall wet grasslands of Manas will subsequently be sampled to obtain information on existing swamp deer population as well as the condition of the habitat.

Based on these initial surveys, sites will be identified for restocking of the swamp deer from Kaziranga.

An ecological study to understand the population dynamics, habitat preference, food requirements and the limiting factors for growth of the swamp deer in Kaziranga will be initiated to understand the dynamics of the source population.


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