The Punjab Department of Forestry and Wildlife offers a conservation breeding facility for endangered blackbucks in their natural environment at Shri Guru Jambeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary in Abohar Subdivision of Fazilka District.
The first such project in the state was mooted after the sarpanch of Sukhchain village, Manoj Godara offered to donate 10 acres of his family trust free of charge for the conservation of the blackbuck, the state animal of Punjab. .
Authorities said the proposed project, which will also serve as a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center, will be launched after obtaining the necessary approval from the Center.
Godara, who is from the Bishnoi community and owns land in the village of Mehrana, credits India’s Chief Forest Officer and Conservator of Forests (Protected Areas) T Ganana Parkash for pushing the scheme.
“The number of blackbucks (called hiran in the local parlance) has decreased at an alarming level over the past few years. Due to limited food availability and increasing population of cattle and stray dogs, blackbucks migrated to neighboring areas of Rajasthan. Blackbuck is a cultural identity of Abohar and as a member of the Bishnoi community, I contribute to wildlife conservation,” Godara said.
He volunteered to donate the land on the condition that the forest department would not use the land for any purpose other than wildlife conservation.
Godara also wants the conservation breeding center to be named after Guru Jambeshwar, founder of the Bishnoi sheepfold.
Parkash said community involvement is an important part of the project and managing stray livestock in the wildlife sanctuary is key to conserving the dwindling antelope population in the sanctuary.
A cluster of 13 villages near Abohar was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1989 at the request of Bishnois to protect wildlife on their private lands in the area.
“It is a unique wildlife sanctuary that is entirely owned by individuals or panchayats. It is based in the heart of environmentally loving Bishnois and we mobilize community members for wildlife conservation. We are awaiting a report from Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun for Conservation Breeding at Mehrana and it will be sent to the Union Government for a snap,” said the Chief Wildlife Warden of Punjab, Praveen Kumar.
He said the ecological degradation of the sanctuary had impacted the blackbuck population.
“Over the years, the sand dunes, the antelopes’ natural habitat, have turned into farmland. It came as a direct loss for blackbucks. The land offered to us is barren and ideal for conservation farming,” Kumar said.