JAIPUR: The Indian gazelle population in an around Jodhpur district is facing threat of extermination and the danger, surprisingly, is not from poachers but stray dogs which have turned predators. According to an estimate there are a thousand cases annually of dogs attacking and killing gazelles, the State Animal of Rajasthan. Against this, poaching cases are only one third of that number.
“The entire race of gazelles in the Jodhpur countryside may vanish in the coming five to seven years if the population of dogs is not controlled,” warns noted environmentalist Harsh Vardhan. “The number of stray dogs has increased alarmingly in Jodhpur district and the adjoining areas in the desert. They are increasingly proving a menace to the wild population of Indian gazelle, which roams freely in this belt,” he notes.
The dogs form groups of five to seven and chase the gazelles in the countryside. They surround the animal and attack it. If it happens around a Bishnoi settlement, then there is help. Men, women and children rush to the rescue of the gazelle. If the animal is injured, a jeep is summoned to transport it to the Jodhpur zoo where first aid is available.
Shravan Singh Rathore, veterinary doctor at Jodhpur Zoo, has no option but to work overtime. He receives five to seven injured gazelles daily and treats them – from injections to stitching wounds. Those which recover are reintroduced in the wild – and there are dozens of them each month. But if the dog attack happens in a non-Bishnoi region, the predators would have their “kill”. Other communities are not as sympathetic as the Bishnois.
It appears that in the absence of any major predator in the desert terrain stray dogs have turned predators. Frequent incidents of stray dogs killing gazelles have prompted the Bishnoi young men to set up an organization which carries out rescue operations in a radius of about 60 kms from Jodhpur town. The organization has gifted a jeep to the Jodhpur Zoo to facilitate staff mobility.
The Bishnois have been demanding the Government to set up gazelle rescue centres at two locations around Jodhpur to minimize the driving time to the zoo. This past week they collected nearly 35 blackbucks and gazelles, which had died due to heat and put them before the forest office to make the authorities realize the neglect being meted out to these animals.
This article originally appeared in The Hindu.