Bad news: Wild buffaloes on brink of extinction

DNA INDIA – ASHWIN AGHOR

Experts recommend immediate measures to protect the species, as only seven are alive. The number was 35 in 2002

MUMBAI: The wild buffalo, the third biggest land mammal, is facing extinction. If measures to protect them are not taken, there will be no more of the species, said Kishor Rithe of Satpuda Foundation and Bivash Pandav, programme leader, tiger and other big cats, WWF-International, Nepal. The two visited the Sitanadi-Udanti Tiger Reserve (SUTR) in Chhattisgarh and Sunabeda-Khariar Tiger Reserve in Orissa recently.

Rithe said, “The SUTR is one of the homes for the remaining wild buffaloes in central India. We were shocked to see the situation of the animal here.”

Pandav, who is in charge of 11 countries to co-ordinate WWF International’s tiger and
other big cats programme, said: “Wild buffaloes are found only in north-east region and in Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra in central India. The species, listed under the Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, needs to be protected at any cost, as these are ancestors of all domestic buffaloes and are must to maintain the century-old gene pool.”

The population of wild buffaloes has drastically dropped to seven from 35 in 2002. Surprisingly, there is not a single male among the seven surviving animals in wild.

During the visit to the SUTR, the team saw a hyena and a pair of jackals, chital, sambar and blue bull in the sanctuary. However, there was virtually no evidence of the presence of wild buffalo.

The visit to SUTR was also shocking. “We visited the enclosure where a wild buffalo and a nine-month-old calf have been kept. Though the field protection is good, there is no increase in the wild buffalo population,” Rithe said.

Terming the situation of wild buffalo in Udanti as critical, Pandav said, “The time seems to be running out for the animal in Udanti. This is not the time to do any kind of experiment. Only clear and concerted action would save this mega herbivore species.”

There are doubts about origin of the only female wild buffalo in an enclosure. There is an urgent need to conduct the DNA analysis to ascertain the same. Rithe said that captive breeding programme should be implemented under the guidance of experts in wild buffaloes to increase the population of the animal.

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Filed under animals, biodiversity, conservation, endangered, environment, environmentalism, extinction, india, nature, wildlife, zoology

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