Wild buffalo: Saving the state animal of Chhattisgarh

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RP MishraBy RP Mishra

The state animal of the Chhattisgarh and on the Red Data Book of International Union for Conservation of Nature and natural resources (IUCN), the wild buffalo is the world’s second largest bovid. Ancestor of the domestic buffalo, the wild species is genetically invaluable.

The distribution range of the wild buffalo has shrunk over the years and is now restricted to only southern Nepal, India, southern Bhutan and western Thailand. The total wild buffalo population in India is about 2,900, with 2,850 in the North-East. The small, fragmented populations in central India are restricted to Chhattisgarh though some animals are also found in Maharashtra adjoining to Indravati Tiger Reserve.

Photo: Rajendra Mishra/WTI

Apart from habitat degradation due to forest fire, weeds and water scarcity, competition with domestic cattle for fodder has pushed the wild buffalo to the edge. Retaliatory killing by locals during crop depredation is another issue. But the immediate threat is population bottleneck, which is especially true of Udanti WLS where the numbers now are as low as nine individuals with only one female. Mating with domestic buffalos genetically weaken the wild species.

A meeting on Wild buffalo Governing Council was held in March 2012 where it was decided that the cloning of female wild buffalo would be done with the help of National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI), Karnal, Haryana. It was also decided that Government Veterinary collage, Anjora, Durg, would Cryo preserve wild buffalo. The Supreme Court passed an order on 13 Feb, 2012 for wild buffalo conservation that necessitates a number of steps such as safeguarding its genetic purity.

Dr RP Mishra is Project Manager, Wildlife Trust of India and member, IUCN-Asian Wild Cattle Specialist Group

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