Wild animals like blackbuck can avoid extinction and persist in human-dominated landscapes by modifying the way they use their habitat, a new research has found. A team of scientists examined how blackbuck, a near threatened species, preferred to stay in the safety of Maharashtra’s Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary, when food was abundant, to avoid the risks associated with humans and livestock.
But as food declined after the monsoon, blackbucks began to move into riskier unprotected grasslands, thus responding dynamically to seasonally changing levels of food and risks in different parts of the landscape.
Funded by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in New Delhi, the study aimed to find how blackbucks react to the costs and benefits of living in this habitat.
“We found that when blackbucks moved into areas of high risk, presence of small sanctuaries or ‘refuges’ in landscapes with high human-use allowed these antelopes to survive and forage,” Chaitanya Krishna, lead author of the study, said.
The team of researchers involved in the project are from Wildlife Conservation Society, Centre for Wildlife Studies, Centre for Ecological Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science and Manipal University.
The authors observed that as blackbucks make seasonal changes in their movements in desperate search for food, they venture into more risky areas located outside the sanctuary.
Co-author Kavita Isvaran said the study shows it might perhaps be possible to simultaneously meet the interests of both wildlife and human, provided the former are offered well-protected refuges, such as the small protected areas that constitute the Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary.
Food resource distribution and availability is a critical factor for survival of wild ungulates and food sources can vary seasonally in quality and quantity, as well as spatial distribution, the study said.