Berhampur, March 5: The population of the endangered blackbucks in Ganjam district of Odisha has increased by 1,612 in the past four years.
The total population of blackbucks, locally called Krushna Sara Mruga or Bali-Harina, was enumerated at 3,806 in 2015 as against 2,194 in 2011, said Odisha's Chief Wildlife Warden (CWW) S S Srivastav.
The census of blackbucks was conducted by the forest department in Aska, Buguda, Polasara, Khallikote, Jagannath Prasad and Berhampur forest ranges, the dwelling zones of the endangered species of antelope on March 1.
Around 300 persons including forest personnel, volunteers and experts took part in the five to six-hour-long enumeration, forest department sources said.
Out of total blackbucks counted this time, 2,086 were female, 1,166 male and 554 young, Srivastav said.
"As the population of blackbucks in the district increased during the period, the majestic animals also migrated to some other new places like Jagannath Prasad, Belaguntha, Rambha areas in the district," he said.
The census of blackbucks was conducted for the first time in Jagannath Prasad forest range, where they found 168 animals.
"After Cyclone Phailin, which hit the district on October 12, 2013, the blackbucks migrated to some new areas," the CWW said. Improvement of habitats, protection given by local people and forest staff were some of the reasons for increase of the blackbuck population, he said adding, he number of blackbucks in the area was 523 in 1973 and increased to 551 in 1998, 786 in 2004, 1,101 in 2006.
The Forest department officials said, most number of blackbucks were sighted in Balipadara-Bhetanai area, comprising around 70 villages.
In Buguda forest range, their number was counted at 1,239 followed by Aska (1,023), Khallikote (1,019), Polasara (356), Jagannath Prasad (168) and Berhampur (1).
The blackbucks of Balipadara-Bhetanai area have been protected religiously by local people for several generations.
"They believe that sighting of the blackbuck in paddy field, is harbinger for them," said President of the Blackbuck Protection Committee (Ganjam) Amulya Upadhyaya.
"Villagers do not kill the animal, even when it strays into the agriculture fields and graze on their crop," he said.
Poaching of blackbucks was virtually absent in the area due to the protection provided by the local people, said R K Mallick, divisional forest officer (DFO) of Ghumusara South Division.