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Hog deer, black buck births at zoo

The newborn hog deer sits in its zoo enclosure on Wednesday.—White Star

The newborn hog deer sits in its zoo enclosure on Wednesday.—White Star

KARACHI: The hog deer and black buck population at the zoo received a boost on Wednesday morning with the birth of two babies, zoo staff told Dawn.

The number of black bucks and hog deer at the zoo has now risen to 19 and four, respectively. A monkey was also born at the zoo recently.

“We are happy, especially on the birth of a hog deer as we lost the last male of the species over a month ago and were left with three females only. Now, there is a hope that the zoo may once again find a breeding pair,” said senior vet and assistant director at the zoo Dr Aamir Ismail.

The black buck baby hadn’t been separated from the male herd, which posed no threat to the calf till it grew up and started growing horns, he explained.

Answering a question why there was so little population of hog deer at the zoo, he said the animal was shy and didn’t breed in captivity as easily as black bucks did.

The black buck (Antilope cervicapra) and hog deer (Axis porcinus) are both endangered species, protected under the Sindh Wildlife Ordinance, 1972.

According to the information available on the internet, the black buck is an ungulate species of antelope and is native to the subcontinent. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has classified the black buck as near threatened since 2003 as its range had decreased sharply during the 20th century.

A close relative of the axis deer or chital, the hog deer populations have experienced dramatic declines in the past few decades, and now survive only in isolated pockets of suitable habitat. Between 1991 and 2012, hog deer in Southeast Asia declined by over 90 per cent, with central Cambodia holding the last remaining
scattered populations.

Though spotted with indistinct spots, hog deer don’t have as bright and conspicuous spots as spotted deer (chital) do. The older the hog deer get, the dimmer the spots become. Hog deer’s preferred habitat is grasslands or swamps near rivers.

In Pakistan it is mainly found in the forests along the Indus river. The construction of dams and barrages upstream has greatly reduced hog deer population. Hunting has also adversely affected its number.

“It’s native to the Indus eco-region and its habitat exists up to Attock. However, no census exists on its population. The animal is breeding in captivity at the Khirthar National Park,” said Sindh wildlife conservator Javed Ahmed Mahar.

The animal, he said, lived in isolation in the wild and made a pair in the breeding season. “They don’t show shyness in captivity and easily get attached to humans. However, males become ferocious during their breeding season. They mark their territories and are ready to fight and kill the other male to establish their superiority,” he said.

People raising hog deer in captivity needed to keep a balanced population of male and female animals, he added.

On the black bucks, he said that in contrast to hog deer, black bucks were social and lived in groups.

“Once common in the desert belt where agriculture existed, the antelope species is now extinct in Sindh.
However, a large population of the species exists in Khairpur’s Mehrano reserve, a private farm supported by the Sindh wildlife department. MNA Ali Gohar Mehar’s farm also has a good population of black bucks,” he said.

According to Mr Mahar, black bucks have also been introduced at the forest department’s Sufi Anwar Safari Park in Ghotki district. The department, he says, supports people raising these animals in captivity as their initiative would help reduce hunting pressures on the animals in the wild.

Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2015

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