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Forest Department, which is mandated with ensuring an ideal eco-system

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Growing population of feral horses in the Point Calimere Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary in Nagapattinam district continues to pose a nightmare for the Forest Department, which is mandated with ensuring an ideal eco-system for survival of blackbuck antelopes and spotted deer.The Department had, last year, contemplated capturing and relocating the horses, but had to abandon the plan. Leave alone the cost, there were difficulties involved in transporting them.

Identifying locations to let them roam free was yet another challenge.The Department had also thought about sterilising the feral horses. But again, there were apprehensions about protests by animal rights groups. Also, the department is not in a position to provide post-operative care for wild horse mares subjected to the sterilisation procedure, leave alone the tough task of finding enough skilled equine veterinarians to perform the procedure.

Such initiatives taken worldwide have indicated that for management of population growth in wild horses, sterilisation of dominant males will reduce, but not eliminate foal production, and that female contraceptive implants could be targeted to specific age classes. But then, the question of administering vaccines to the horse population in the sanctuary has not arisen due to the exorbitant cost. The effect of the vaccine, in any case, wears off in a year, scientific studies state. The anti-poaching watchers deployed in the sanctuary are on their toes to chase away feral horses that forage on the grasslands that the black buck antelopes and spotted deer frequent.“One small solace is that there are instances of feral horses wandering beyond the confines of the sanctuary and not returning again,” a senior official said.The department has understandably been facing difficulties in securing the cooperation of the locals in surrounding villages in containing the impact.

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The locals simply refuse to take back the horses that were used as the only means of transport between Vedaranyam and Kodiakarai many decades back.

The locals had abandoned the once-domesticated horses after the road link was created.According to a conservative estimate, there are at least 200 feral horses in the sanctuary. The 1,700 hectare sanctuary has large areas of grassland and there is no immediate threat to food security of the nearly 700 black bucks and 800 spotted deer.However, the department is wary of letting the population of feral horses grow unchecked since the feeding space would inevitably shrink in the long run. But, there is no solution in sight.

(source : The Hindu)

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