In the interiors of Amravati and Yavatmal districts of Maharashtra state, there is a different kind of meat available if asked for – Blackbuck meat. And surprisingly, the meat is cheaper than goat meat!
Blackbuck is a schedule I animal, a recipient of the highest protection level under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972. But the poor animal is being hunted barbarically by poachers for its meat and its horns. The horns are used for making herbal medicines and to cure skin related problems.
Officer of the Animal Welfare Board of India Manoj Oswal said that he has tried to nap poachers killing blackbucks for their meat, skin and horns. A couple of months ago he conducted a raid in three markets of Amravati and Yavatmal districts where he found a lot of blackbuck carcasses — including the inedible parts.
“The accused escaped before the team could catch them. In another case, a hunter with a blackbuck was caught a year ago. Blackbucks are easily available and hunted in these districts. There are speciality dhabas where the meat is available on order,” said Oswal.
A volunteer with People for Animals even revealed how blackbuck meat was sold at a price of Rs. 220 per kg, cheaper than regular goat meat sold at Rs. 240 per kg. What is also shocking is that people can order the meat from home.
“In fact, one can get it delivered at home too. The demand for blackbuck meat comes not just from the lower strata of the society, but also from the elite,“ said the volunteer.
Pramod Patil, director of the Great Indian Bustard Foundation, said that usually the local Pardhi (nomadic/tribal) community hunt the blackbucks. And because blackbucks usually roam in open grasslands, it is fairly easy to catch those using snares.
The animals are also losing their right to live because of habitat loss.
More and more open grasslands are being encroached by humans for use as agriculture fields. Patil pointed out that farmers use electric barbed wire fencing around their lands, killing unsuspecting animals frequently.
“Blackbucks are an important specie for grassland conservation. If they are protected, other species like the Great Indian Bustard and wolves will also be protected,“ Patil said.
Erach Bharucha, director Bharati Vidyapeeth Institute of Environment Education and Research also pointed out how blackbucks are also losing their fodder.
“Earlier, farmers would grow jowar and maize, but now sugarcane crops are being grown. Thus, blackbucks are losing out on their fodder.”
He added, “Large herds once roamed freely in these areas, but they are now found in small groups. As their habitat is slowly decreasing, their population in limited areas is high. They stray into fields in search of food and damage the crops, so the locals see blackbucks as a threat to their agricultural produce.”
The forest department official though does not believe the animals are in danger because there are no predators in the area. He is more concerned about the farmers whose crop might be getting damaged by the blackbucks.
M K Rao, conservator of forests (wildlife), Pune said, “”Legal action should be taken against poachers, who should be prosecuted. We need to restore the habitat of blackbucks. However, the department should also provide compensation to farmers whose crops are damaged by blackbucks,“
The species thus survives with scarce food, receding habitat and added danger of being murdered by poachers to become dinner for some human.