BEST SEEN AT: Velavadar National Park, Point Calimere, Tamil Nadu
STATUS: Schedule I/Near threatened
GOOD TO KNOW: It can clock 60 km an hour for about 10 kilometres
EVERYONE KNOWS about the memorial Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan made for his wife, but few are aware that his father Emperor Jehangir, a passionate naturalist, dedicated a memorial to his pet blackbuck. This “exclusively Indian” animal is beautiful, with a glassy black coat and spiralling horns. It’s the swiftest long distance runner and has always been prized as both trophy and meat. For the royals, it was an irresistible challenge and they specially trained cheetahs to hunt the blackbuck. By the mid-19th century, when the cheetah was extinct in India, they imported it from Africa. Even today, the persecution has not stopped — two high-profile hunting cases being those of actor Salman Khan and former cricket captain Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi. Blackbucks are venerated as ‘Krishna Mrigam’ and fiercely protected by communities like the Bishnois. Even so, they are rapidly vanishing from their habitats, as the grasslands and scrub jungles they inhabit are being replaced by agricultural fields. This has led to conflict, and the once-venerated blackbuck is persecuted as a crop raider.
PRERNA SINGH BINDRA