In search of food and water, hundreds of spotted deer have started coming out of the Gangaikondan Spotted Deer Sanctuary, the southernmost habitat of the animal, as there is no sufficient water and food inside the 250-hectare deciduous shrub jungle with porous compound wall and damaged barbed wire fence around.
After the population of spotted deer living in the stretch between Sankar Nagar and Thuraiyoor on Tirunelveli – Madurai 4-lane National Highway increased manifold, the State Government, in October 2013, declared it as Spotted Deer Sanctuary. However, no major allocation of funds has been made till now to create significant animal-friendly facilities inside the sanctuary to ensure its food, water and safety. The water being filled-up in the small tank inside the sanctuary is not apparently sufficient to meet the requirement.
While the compound wall on the western side of the sanctuary is found damaged at several spots, most of the stone pillars holding the barbed wire fence on the other sides have fallen down. Consequently, the spotted deer can easily move out of the sanctuary and the non-availability of food and water inside this damaged enclosure drive the animals out. Whenever the spotted deer come out of the sanctuary in the night, the animals wander up to Abhishekapatti on the west and the forests beyond Kayathar in search of food and water, braving threats from poachers and stray dogs.
With the region receiving scanty northeast monsoon last year, most of the waterholes situated around the sanctuary now have little quantity of water. Water stagnating in the stone quarries situated around the sanctuary quench the animals thirst to some extent.
“Whenever we cultivate brinjal, lady’s finger, tomato etc., we need to be extremely vigilant, particularly during night, as the spotted deer herd cause extensive crop damage. This is happening every year as no permanent measure is in place to ensure sufficient food and water inside the sanctuary,” says K. Murugan, a farmer from Maanur, a village which is situated about 10 Km from the sanctuary.
Though fodder was cultivated inside the sanctuary at regular intervals to feed the spotted deer, the erratic monsoon wiped out the crop and dashed the forest department’s hopes. Consequently, the animals now feed on the rapidly drying grass, fruits of thorny bushes and the water being stocked in the tank inside the sanctuary.
Officials in the forest department say that proposals have been forwarded to the government seeking sizeable allocation of funds for creating fodder, water and a credible fence around to ensure the safety of the animals.