Sunday, March 04, 2007


Last week was awful. I made too many mistakes, miscalculations and serious errors of judgment. Let me correct one of them here by publishing an interview with Ranjit Daniels. Ranjit is the man hired by IIT-Madras to do a bio-diversity study of the campus. Based on his findings IIT is now trying to implement the roadmap he has set out to increase the black buck population.

His key agenda is radical – he says we need to start cutting trees. Cutting trees!? What do trees have to do with Black Buck? Everything. And when Rajnit Daniels explains it, he makes the world of the Black Buck something beautiful.

For how long have Black Buck been in this area?
Black Bucks have been here for atleast 30 years. But we’re not entirely sure how they came to be here. The IIT land once belonged to a British family. They could’ve introduced the animals for hunting or perhaps they already existed there. We’re not very sure. But about 30 years ago, there were 30 black bucks in the IIT area.

So the current population of 12 is not so alarming?
These are insulated populations and maintaining an insulated population anywhere is a great challenge. Black Buck numbers have dwindled over the years and not suddenly so there is nothing alarming about this decrease. The Black Bucks became isolated from the animals in neighbouring Guindy National park in 1978 when IIT built a wall.

So can’t the animals just be shifted to the neighbouring park now where it is perhaps safer for them?
Black buck are shy and timid and its going to be very difficult to catch them in the woods of IIT. We might end up doing more harm than good. Also, for sentimental reasons I think we should save the animal right here where it has existed.

What are the threats to the Black Bucks inside IIT at the moment?
The problem inside IIT is that there are too many trees and Black bucks actually need open grasslands. That is their natural habitat. The other problem is feral dogs. People just bring them into the campus and let them be there. Dogs in a pack are a real problem. Dogs have been domesticated for nearly 50,000 years. They may have lost their instinct to eat meat but they have certainly not lost their instinct to hunt. Thats why we find that sometimes they attack the deer and black buck but don't eat them.

So how come they came here in the first place if open grasslands is their natural habitat?
They came first and the trees came next, because we all have this British concept of greening. IITians started planting trees in their quest for a green campus and someone has introduced several exotic species. The most damaging one has been ‘Prosopis Juliflora’ from the American continent. It’s a very invasive species and needs no human intervention to start multiplying. Before we knew it, the entire campus was overrun with this species, shrinking Black buck territory. Whats worse, IIT obviously thought it should protect the woods and constructed on remaining open ground further destroying Black Buck territory. Trees are not always good. We shouldn’t plant them where there once weren’t any.

So what now?
Now we are going to start cutting trees. That’s the radical solution I have given IIT. But we have to do it slowly so that we don’t scare away the animals. We have begun by clearing up the seeds on the ground today. The challenge will be to cut the big trees without alarming the animals.

How much open space do you need to create?
There are 4 males and 8 females on campus. One male needs atleast 8 hectares of land, so we are going to clear up around 30 hectares.

Why does the male need 8 hectares?
They need it to graze and mate. Black buck procreate through a process called Lek mating. Its quite like peacocks. One male black buck can mate with several females. Males stand at either end of a field and strut their stuff. The females decide which male they would like to mate with and that’s how they procreate. So open space is vital for us to improve their numbers.

There have been lots of well-meaning folk who want to save the Black buck inside the IIT campus but they have hijacked the debate by offering ignorant, unscientific advise. They might turn up with placards when trees are cut but Ranjit Daniels is an ecologist and knows what hes talking about. That’s why IIT hired him.


Sathej said...

A good step forward towards saving the black bucks.It is indeed sad that the trees have to go.But,after all,one has to follow the ecologist's advise.He knows best.

Kiruba Shankar said...

Alaphia, I'm still yet to get out of the shock.

30 hectares of trees going to be cut down? 30 HECTARES!!

That's how helluva lot of greenery.

Sure, the blackbucks need them.

But how does the ecologist explain this to the other animals?

Alaphia Zoyab said...

Sathej - It will be sad to watch the trees fall. But its going to be very challenging. So I don't think we'll suddenly be seeing a bald patch inside IIT.

Kribs - Yes, 30 hectares. Ironically Black buck and spotted deer need completely contrasting habitats. Ranjit says the deer are doing fine so we don't have to worry about them right now. The open area should hopefully solve a small part of the monkey menace as well. But Ranjit is sensitive and will not do anything alarming. They will be watching the results of tree-cutting very carefully. For instance if the crashing of those big trees in the woods is going to frighten the black buck, then they'll be thinking of a more creative solution. But yup - the plan is to get rid of trees on 30 hectares.

Sathej said...

30 Hectares!!I know of that only now.Oh,that is surely sad.Isn't there an alternative.I know that an ecologist like Ranjit would have weighed all issues before concluding.Nevertheless,it is bound to affect the greenery and so many other issues like calmness and cool temeperatures inside the campus. Any idea on when are they starting?

matcher said...

30 HECTARES of land to be cut to save 30 Black Bucks.......

kya "Buck Buck" bhakhwas he......


Ranjit Daniel-an ecologist wants 30 hectares to provide more Mating grounds for Black Bucks...Oh boy Oh Naughty Boy.Male Black Bucks are too demanding I suppose??

Who knows if he won't get into GirForest and say the entire forest to be cut down to provide more mating area for those Lions...

Alaphia Zoyab said...

Sathej - they have just begun by clearing the seeds. Cutting trees is going to take some time. Don't know what they'll do if its all too alarming for the animals.

Matcher - what do you mean bakhwas hai??? You may not like the idea of 30 hectares being cleared but it doesn't make the proposal all rubbish because Ranjit Daniels is the ecologist. Not you.

Rohan said...

I suggest that the 30 hectares that IIT lVandalur, whioses should be compensated by afforesting 30 hectares of land beyond Tambaram. Probably near Vandalur, which has plenty of open spaces. About a century ago, the whole of the Tambaram area and the areas to the south, till about Chengalpattu, were covered by dense scrub and deciduous forests. Even Leopards roamed around here and possibly Tigers too. If I am not wrong, only about 5% of the original woodlands remain today. Mainly inside Madras Christian College, the Airforce station, Nanmangalam reserve forest, and the Vandalur reserve forest.

(note- I live in Tambaram!!!)

Rohan said...

I meant that the 30 hectares which IIT(Guindy) loses should be compensated by afforestation near Vandalur.

seruppu said...

What the hell happened to artifical insemination? You know, shag the damn male and shove the white sticky stuff deep inside the female's rectum. I'm sure there are lot of pervs who love to do that job. Like they do with horses.
By destroying the dense forest they're destroying the habibat of "I'm so high I won't even know if I get raped" species of the hominids.

What's so "natural" about natural mating anyway? Losers!

raj said...

The Gir forest comment made sense. For natural mating, you want to artificially cut trees and create a 'natural' space for the bukcs?
Irregardless of the needs of other animals(humans included)? Wouldnt it be simpler to relocate the bucks to a natural natural habitat for them? An ecologist suggesting solutions based on 'sentimental' reasons? DOnt you see the self-parody there?

Karthik Narayan said...

oh man.. thats horrifying!! im a chennai resident too.. and i find that disgusting. People arent getting any wiser. This is what I call Senti-MENTAL!! r u guys doing anything against it yet? lemme know.. ill join in

Karthik Narayan said...

this reminded me of a cartoon i had got in a fwd... see my blog for the same..

quite interesting actually the paradox :)

RAM RAM said...

Why not transfer the bucks to any other open grassland?why cut tress of 30 hec?doesnt make sense!B.bucks generally prefer to be in country side!why trouble them in a city with stray dogs?

A sanctuary like "vallanudu" near tuticorin may be created by the govt. for black bucks OR transported to that sanctuary meant for b.bucks! :)