By Rahul Noronha
The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), a key wildlife management body, has given its nod for relocating 20 hard-ground barasingha or swamp deer from Kanha tiger reserve to Satpura national park.
Kanha is the last habitat in the world for barasingha or cervus duvacelli branderi, the state animal of Madhya Pradesh. There are about 500 left in Kanha, up from just 66 in the 1970s.
Conservationists are keen to have a second home to protect the species from extinction in case of an epidemic. Authorities first sought the transfer of the barasingha in February 2011 and permission was finally given by NTCA on January 28.
Sources said the relocation of the swamp deer would begin in the second week of February. All arrangements are in place at the new home of the barasingha, including a 30-hectare enclosure at Bori in Satpura national park.
A soft release of animals in this enclosure will precede the release of the swamp deer in forests. The swamp deer will be tranquilized in Kanha and transported by road to Satpura in two batches. Madhya Pradesh’s chief wildlife warden Narendra Kumar confirmed that permission for relocating the animals had been granted.
"We plan to maintain a 2:3 ratio between males and females while selecting specimens for transfer," he said. An earlier attempt to reintroduce barasingha in the area in the early 1980s had failed, with the animals dying in the process. NTCA had first asked the state forest department to shift five barasingha from Kanha to Van Vihar national park in Bhopal as a precursor to the relocation to Satpura.
The barasingha were successfully shifted from Kanha to Van Vihar earlier this month. But the relocation to Satpura was delayed due to the lack of certain drugs used as antidotes to revive tranquilised animals. Several gazettes and publications, including The Highlands of Central India by Captain James Forsyth, had reported the presence of barasingha in the area around Bori till the turn of the last century.