Curious case of blackbucks in Nepal

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Blackbucks Antilope cervicapra in Nepal represent the northernmost surviving herd in the world. It is the sole living member of the genus Antilope. The species was thought to be extinct until a few blackbucks were sighted in 1975. Only nine individuals were present back then which has increased to 252 in Bardiya in 2017[1].

The survival of the species in Khairapur in 1975 represents an interesting relationship in how culture has shaped environmental condition. Khairapur is inhabited by Yadav who worship the species. The Nepali name for the species is Krishnasar which constitute of two words “Krishna” and “shyahar,” or cared by Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna is one of the major deities in Hinduism and the local Yadav care for this animal as well. Likewise, the sharp decline of the species was attributed to excessive hunting among many other reasons. The local Yadav at Khairapur are vegetarians. So, I think the culture has enabled the protection of the species and thereby shaping the environmental condition.

Blackbuck herd in Blackbuck Conservation Area

For the conservation of the species, Blackbuck Conservation Area has been established in Gulariya municipality of Bardiya district with headquarter of the Conservation Area at Khairapur. The conservation area stands on private land. This is another interesting dynamic here. The conservation in Nepal has been marred by forceful evictions of people from different places[2] and here the land has been acquired by the government by paying compensation to the owners of the land.

Lastly, on the recent field visit to Khairapur, I noticed a behavior which might merit a consult by a wildlife biologist. As you will see in the video below, the male blackbuck (one with the long, ringed horns) is either propelling the female or a young male antelope to scout if the crossing is safe or has noted that the crossing is safe after viewing and urged the other to cross before him. If anyone could point this behavior out for me, I would be grateful! Why I think this behavior is interesting is because the male antelope adopts a lekking strategy to garner females for mating. Lekking is a competitive display or courtship ritual by males to entice visiting females. So, if propelling was for urging others to scout if the crossing was safe does this not be in contrary to competitive display? Maybe I am reading too much into it but sure would like an expert’s take on this. If my imaginations are going wild for no reason then the video is just an amusement of sort!

A male blackbucks curious behaviour while crossing the road

If I get some interesting take on this, I will update this blog accordingly.

[1] KrCA, “Krishnasaar Conservation Area Management Plan (2074/75-2078/79).”

[2] Amnesty International and CSRC, “Violations in the Name of Conservation.”

Anu Rai

I am an aspiring environmental researcher.

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