Kapilas Bhuyan

While going towards Southern Odisha town Aska, once famous throughout Asia for its Sugar Factory, after crossing Khallikote you will find herds of Blackbucks or Indian Antelopes in the grasslands running alongside your vehicle. It’s a great pleasure to sight these innocent creatures in their natural habitats. However, in recent times a lot of those are killed either by road accidents or illegal hunting.

Half a century ago they were only found in the village surroundings of Vetnai, Ghatkuri, Belaguntha, etc. near Bhanjanagar and the local villagers had been the protectors of these innocent creatures. Thus, Vetnai had become famous for natural sighting world over and wildlife photographers and animal lovers had kept coming here to gather experience.

This had also encouraged the local villagers to protect these antelopes despite their rummaging of the crops in the village fields. A strong bonding between the animals and human beings became exemplary all around. The forest department has also extended their support by putting road signs to drive slow for protection. Thus, a natural sanctuary got built up in between Aska and Kabisuryanagar.

Gradually the numbers of the antelopes increased manifold in the area, and they started migrating to nearby greener pastures of Kodala and Beguniapada and their surrounding villages like Mallikeswar, Bhatapada, Ranipada, Bania, Chikii, K. Barida, Badakhairakhama, Kumaripari, Bhabinipur, Paaikapada, Marddakot and Sumandal, etc. These surrounding areas are full of hillocks and highlands with thin forest cover and grasslands quite conducive for the antelopes to reside in the required natural habitat. Their numbers are also growing very fast over last one and half decade or so.

In the recent time, sadly enough, it’s found that many blackbucks are dying due to road accidents. Besides, the clandestine poaching of these innocent animals by the local hunters has become a threat to their lives.

It’s primarily due to lack of longtime planning for the protection of the antelopes. As the animals have migrated to the new habitat which is located alongside the state highway that connects Khallikote and Aska, there are no specific road signs to drive slowly. As a result, the jumping creatures often get hit by the speeding vehicles and die untimely.

On the other hand, the villagers in the surrounding villages of these newly migrating land of the antelopes are not as sensitive as the villagers of Vetnai towards these innocent animals. If not all, some of these local people do involve in senseless killing of the bucks for fun and frolic. So, awareness drive is an urgent need for these locals by the forest department for the protection of the antelopes.

Lest, the survival of these innocent creatures will come under threat soon.

(The Writer is a Senior Journalist and National Award-Winning Filmmaker. Opinions are personal.)