Under threat from deer, tropical forests in the Andaman islands can be saved only if the government allows game hunting of spotted deer, suggests a conservationist who wants a revision of hunting laws.
Destruction of forest cover in the Andaman islands—large enough to be seen by satellites—is caused mainly by spotted deer, and to some extent by elephants. Both animals are alien to the islands. While the number of elephants has come down in the last century or so, deer grew and spread to many islands in the Andamans.
The two invasive species were responsible for vegetation loss in the islands, says a recent study carried out by conservationists from India and the US.
The researchers studied four sites in the islands spanning close to 400 sq km of forest area free from human habitation and livestock. Using satellite images, vegetation cover for these sites were monitored between 1985-95 and 2001-05.
“Areas with deer have faster rates of degradation than those without them. The maximum degradation occurred at sites with both elephants and deer, and the minimum where neither of the two animal species were found,” says the study published in the latest issue of the journal Current Science.
Spotted deer or Chital was introduced to the islands in the 1930s as a game animal. In the absence of predators, and being good swimmers, they have spread to every island in the Andaman group of islands, with the exception of Little Andaman. More....