• In 2019, so far, as many as eight blackbucks have died and a majority of them succumbed to their injuries, caused by barbed wires while running from an attack by stray dogs.
  • Other unnatural reasons for blackbuck deaths include road accidents, falling into water storage tanks, and concrete drains.
  • For the blackbuck, Punjab’s State animal, it’s a fight for existence at the AWS in the Fazilka district.
  • It faces a severe threat from stray cattle, attacks by stray dogs, and habitat fragmentation due to change in land use and cropping patterns over the past few years.
  • State government data shows that, in 2018, as many as 25 blackbucks died, while the wildlife wing was successful in saving the lives of 18 injured blackbucks.
  • In 2017, 42 blackbucks died in the sanctuary area, while 33 were saved after being provided medical treatment.
  • Most of the blackbucks here are dying due to injuries caused by the attack of stray dogs on them. Feral dogs target young deer and expecting females.
  • The problem has been aggravated in the past few years as locals trying to save their crops from stray cattle have put up barbed wires and nets.
  • This fencing of agriculture fields restricts the free movement of blackbucks and results in fatal injuries during dog chase incidents.
  • Fencing agricultural fields, especially with cobra wires that have blade-edged iron wire mesh, has been a major cause of worry, and a key reason behind causing fatal injuries to blackbucks during dog attacks.
  • The AWS is an open sanctuary, spread across private land in 13 villages.
  • The blackbuck was notified as the State animal of Punjab in 1989 and its presence in the State is confined to the AWS due to the unique habitat of semi-arid plains consisting agricultural fields, intermittent fallow-barren lands, scattered sand dunes, sand mounds and ridges.
  • Locals who have been peacefully co-existing with this near-threatened species of blackbuck for several years are annoyed about the alleged indifference of the State government towards solving the problem of stray cattle.
  • They say that if the problem of stray cattle is resolved, then there would be no need for them to fence their farms with barbed wires, which would eventually allow free movement of blackbucks and help them thrive.
  • In AWS, where land in mainly owned by the Bishnoi community, there were 3,273 blackbucks according to the 2017 census, conducted jointly by the Punjab Biodiversity Board (PBB) and the Department of Forest and Wildlife Preservation (DFWP), against 3,500 in the year 2011.
  • Successive governments have failed to find a solution to the problem of stray animals, which are not only destroying crops but have also caused the deaths of humans.