Local nilgai and blackbuck populations are at risk due to stray dogs in Badopal area of Fatehabad district in Haryana state and Mangli-Rawatkheda area in Hisar district. These two unprotected wild animals find shelter in the home of the Bishnoi community. Bishnoi community loves blackbuck.
The study found that stray dogs attacked wildlife in packs. Incidents of attacks and casualties on this fauna were seen more during the breeding season, as females are more vulnerable to attacks on their young. According to the Haryana State Forest Department, from January 2016 to May 2020, 361 blackbucks, 1641 nilgai, 25 peacocks, 29 chinkaras and 35 monkeys were killed in Hisar division alone.
Vikram Delu, a PhD in biology on the behavior and genetics of blackbucks in western Haryana and co-author of the paper, says, “Dog owners when they don’t allow them to stay or if they breed them on the street. deviate- se. As a result, they roam freely and breed more and more and increase the local dog population. Now these stray dogs have become a major cause of concern in wildlife-dominated areas surrounded by human rooms”.
Regarding the number of wildlife victims in stray dog attacks, the State Forestry Department, through statistics, reported that stray dogs are the only hunters in this area.
Delu explains, “The main blackbuck hunter in the state of Haryana was the cheetah. After the extinction of the cheetah, there are no large carnivores in the state except in the Kalesar National Park. The state is also agricultural and there is an abundance of human habitation. Thus, in the absence of large carnivores, the lost domesticated dogs have begun to replace the main predators. Now these dogs have become the only predatory animal for wildlife isolated in Haryana”.
Conflicts between dogs and wildlife will also affect humans
Over the years, there has been an ongoing study of the dangers stray dogs (about 35 million) pose to wildlife in India. In addition to attacks on wildlife, including ground-nesting birds, experts fear the spread of canine distemper and other viruses to other species. Some research has also indicated that stray dogs are a threat to at least 80 species, 31 of which are listed as “threatened” and four on the IUCN Red List of Critically Threatened. In India, attacks have been reported on the golden langur (Trachypithecus ge), the Indian bustard (Ardiotis nigriceps) and the green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas).
Male and Female Blackbucks in Hyderabad. Image – JM Garg / Wikimedia Commons
A study conducted in western Haryana has found that the number of stray dogs has increased in recent years. The dangers posed by stray dogs in this area were assessed based on a count of encounters that occurred in the area each month. During this, the hunting behavior of street dogs alone, in pairs or in small packs was monitored. During the investigation, the presence of dogs in abundance was noted. Data from the state forest department on the killing of blackbuck and nilgai by dogs revealed that stray or feral dogs have indeed become a serious wildlife concern.
Delu says, “Each species has its own role in the ecosystem. In the case of Haryana, herbivores are present in very small regional proportions, so the presence of these dogs can have a detrimental effect on the population of local fauna. At the same time, we also have to consider that these dogs did not appear as hunters in a year or two. It took many years or even decades for them to behave like this.”
In this research, not only in Haryana but across the country, many ways to solve this problem have been given. He said there is a need to run operations (SOPs) at the national or state level comprehensively to reduce dog-wildlife conflict. Along with sterilization and vaccination of dogs, the creation of rehabilitation centers in case the wildlife is outside the protected areas can also be a solution at the local level. The study also suggested that there should be a stricter law banning people from abandoning pet dogs, to prevent domesticated dogs from becoming stray dogs. To assess the threat of dogs, a dog census has been proposed in wildlife-rich areas.
Most of the mammal and other wildlife populations in Haryana are mostly surrounded by human habitations, so dog-wildlife-human conflicts are likely to occur in the future. “There is also a risk of the spread of zoonotic diseases (zoonotic diseases), so holistic awareness and grassroots work is still needed to prevent this problem from growing further,” says Delu.
(This article originally appeared on Mongabay.)
banner photoThe number of stray dogs in India is said to be around 35 million. photo – purchase 1999/Wikimedia Commons