Indiscriminate mining and rapid ndustrialisation are adversely affecting the population of wolves in the Kutch region of Gujarat which has been the stronghold of these animals, according to a senior forest official. “Destruction of the habitat of these creatures due to heavy mining activities and industrialisation is affecting the population of the wolves,” said Dr Amit Jethwa, an expert on wolves. Jethwa has worked for four years on a project on wolves, tracking their movements, food habits and other behaviours in Velavdar National Park in Bhavnagar district of Gujarat and has also conducted radio telemetry studies on them.
According to Jethwa, there has been increasing mining of lignite, limestone, bauxite and other materials in the forest region which is having an adverse impact on the habitat of the wolves.
The mining activities also resulted in a decline in the population of black bucks and other herbivorous animals which are the natural prey of the wolves. Because of the reduction in natural prey, the wolves tend to search for alternative sources of food in the villages creating conflict with human beings as they start feeding on livestock, he added.
Jethwa said due to the decline of their natural prey, the wolves have been found straying into villages and devouring the livestock of the villagers. As a result, there have been cases when the villagers have smoked the wolves out of their dens and killed them.
Jethwa has conducted radio telemetry studies of the wolves on their daily movements, activities, use of habitat and space in the Bhal region of Gujarat. For his extensive study on the wolves, he was awarded a doctorate.
After the disappearance of cheetahs in India, wolves are the only top predators surviving in the open grasslands of India.Jethwa has studied the wolves by trapping, radio collaring and monitoring their movements for collection of data on home range, habitat use and predation, and has come out with interesting observations.
The wolves were found to have strong preference to adult blackbucks as compared to female black bucks and their fawns. “Annual consumption by three wolf packs that we studied indicated that they consumed 262 adult black bucks, 17 adult female black bucks and 67 black buck fawns besides 23 cattle,” he added. Among the pack only the dominant ones, known as the “alpha pairs”, breed during the winter and the gestation period is 60 to 63 days. They are also fiercely territorial.
Ahmedabad Newsline - Ahmedabad,India