Eastern Swamp Deer numbers on the rise in Assam’s Kaziranga

Guwahati, May 26 (IANS) In news that might cheer wildlife lovers and conservationists, the number of Eastern Swamp Deer is on the rise in Assam’s Kaziranga National Park.

A recent counting of the species carried out by the park authorities in association with some wildlife NGOs have found a total of 1,148 in the park, indicating an increase of 19 individuals from the last year’s estimation.

Expressing happiness over the increasing in number of the deer, park authorities said that low flood levels in the park in last two years have reduced the mortality rate and resulted in the gradual increase of the population.

“The 1,148 includes 284 adult males, 605 adult females, 83 yearlings and 176 fawns,” park officials said.

The Kaziranga National Park is believed to harbour the last viable population of the Eastern Swamp Deer and monitoring the sub-species’ population status is considered crucial in forming conservation and management strategies.

Records of swamp deer population estimation date since 1966 when statistics of their sighting were collected during estimation of other animals such as rhinoceros and elephants. Such records are available for 1966, 1972, 1978, 1984 and 1993. However, a dedicated swamp deer estimation was conducted by the forest department in Kaziranga for the first time in 1998 and subsequently in 2007, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

The park authorities conducted the population estimation following the “Block count” method, dividing the total area into smaller units or block based on habitat feature or other distinct terrain feature. “Twenty such areas or blocks have been selected in four different ranges of the park,” said park officials while adding that multiple observers engaged in the exercise simultaneously counted the species from elephant backs, watch towers and vehicles.

“Only direct observations were considered. Sex and age of each swamp deer are visually assigned based on their body size and antler characteristics (for males only). The swamp deer are grouped into four age-sex classes such as adult males, adult females, yearling and fawns. GPS and binoculars are used during the exercise to locate and record the deer in different parts of the park,” the officials said.



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