CH­HAT­TIS­GARH: AN­I­MAL IN­STINCT

Suc­cess­ful cloning raises the state’s hopes of sav­ing the en­dan­gered wild buf­falo

India Today - - STATES - By Rahul Noronha

It’s a home­com­ing of sorts. The world’s first clone of the crit­i­cally en­dan­gered Asi­atic wild buf­falo (Bubalus arnee) has been brought to Ch­hat­tis­garh, where it will be part of a species re­cov­ery pro­gramme. Cloned from a wild buf­falo in the Udanti-Si­tanadi Tiger Re­serve, Deep­asha was born at the Na­tional Dairy Re­search In­sti­tute (NDRI) in Kar­nal (Haryana) in 2015. She has now been given a new home at the con­ser­va­tion-breed­ing cen­tre in Naya Raipur’s Jun­gle Sa­fari.

Des­ig­nated Ch­hat­tis­garh’s state an­i­mal, the wild buf­falo has all but dis­ap­peared from the state’s forests. The last count of the species un­der­taken at the Udanti Wildlife Sanc­tu­ary showed that a mere 12 re­mained in the wild.

Wildlife au­thor­i­ties in the state are ex­cited about the prospects of cross­ing the fe­male clone with the few re­main­ing male buf­faloes at Udanti-Si­tanadi as well as in As­sam, the only other In­dian habi­tat with a sur­viv­ing wild buf­falo pop­u­la­tion. “To be­gin with, we are plan­ning to move a male buf­falo, in cap­tiv­ity at Si­tanadi, to the breed­ing cen­tre in Raipur,” said chief wildlife war­den R.K. Singh.

Ra­jen­dra Mishra, re­gional head of the Wildlife Trust of In­dia (WTI), says the plan to also source a male from As­sam is to bring ge­netic vari­a­tion in the prog­eny. “We took the sup­port of science. The chal­lenge now is to en­sure the clone yields calves,” he said.

Ch­hat­tis­garh is the only land­scape in cen­tral In­dia that has wild buf­falo. Direly close to ex­tinc­tion in 2006, three of the then five sur­viv­ing an­i­mals in Udanti-Si­tanadi—two fe­males and a male—were bred in cap­tiv­ity. Three calves born at the breed­ing cen­tre have since been re­leased into the for­est.

State wildlife of­fi­cials say there are small pop­u­la­tions of wild buf­faloes in Bi­japur’s In­dra­vati Na­tional Park and the Pamed Wildlife Sanc­tu­ary too. But large parts of these re­serves are not ac­ces­si­ble, ow­ing to the pres­ence of Maoists. Of­fi­cials, how­ever, con­cede that the to­tal wild buf­falo count in the state is not more than 50.

As part of the species re­cov­ery pro­gramme, wildlife au­thor­i­ties have vac­ci­nated 3,500 do­mes­tic cat­tle in the area where the wild buf­falo is found. This is to pre­vent the spread of dis­eases from do­mes­tic buf­faloes. To en­sure there is no in­ter-breed­ing, the state for­est depart­ment has bought dozens of do­mes­tic buf­faloes from vil­lagers in the vicin­ity of the for­est fre­quented by the wild buf­falo.

BHU­PESH KESHARWANI

WILD CARD EN­TRYThe cloned wild buf­falo in Naya Raipur

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