Zoo deer to be used to feed Sundarbans tigers
Kolkata: To ease congestion inside the enclosures of the fast-breeding animals the Alipore zoo in Kolkata and a deer park in West Bengal have taken to releasing some of its captive spotted deer in the wild in the Sundarbans.
According to wildlife experts, the transfer of the deer to the forest by wildlife authorities of the state, apart from helping the deer live in a more natural environment, would improve the food supply for the Sundarbans' tigers that have often been straying into villages in search of cattle, and attacking people.
But some conservationists do not support translocation of captive deer to the wild.
"Deer born in captivity must find it very difficult to acclimatise themselves in a terrain as wild and as hostile as the Sundarbans.
"It is not true that the tigers' prey base is in any crisis," said Biswajit RoyChowdhury, secretary of the Kolkata-based wildlife NGO Nature, Environment and Wildlife Society (News).
Spotted deer, also called chital in India, is the most common deer species in the country. Chitals breed fast even in captivity and so the deer population in the zoos and other parks has been growing rapidly.
Located in the middle of the city, Alipore zoo can ideally house 15 or 20 chitals in its three enclosures. But now the zoo has 70 chitals in captivity.
The Bibhuti Bhushan Wildlife Sanctuary (BBWS) with the capacity to hold 150 chitals in its deer park, is housing more than 450 chitals.
In August, wildlife authorities announced that over the following "few" months up to few hundred captive chitals would be traslocated to the Sundarbans.
Although the zoo is yet to act on its plan to transfer sixty chitals to the tiger reserve, in the third week of August, 25 chitals were sent out of BBWS deer park for translocation to the Sundarbans.
However, of the 25 deer, six died on August 19, when they were being translocated to the Sundarbans reserve, 175 kilometres away from the park.
West Bengal's Chief Conservator of Forests, Atanu Raha said that the six chitals died possibly because of excessive delay in the process of translocation, after the truck in which the animals were travelling got stuck in mud for more than four hours.
"Being in very excited state during the process of translocation, the faint-hearted animals might have died of heart failure," Raha said.
"Twenty five per cent casualty during translocation of chitals is not an alarmingly high rate."