35 deer died in IIT Madras campus in last six months up till Dec 2021, reveals RTI

The RTI was filed by animal rights activist R Aswin Kumar, and the reply states that postmortem was conducted only on 15 deer, out of which four died due to plastic ingestion.
IIT Madras Deer deaths
IIT Madras Deer deaths
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A total of 35 deer, including spotted deer and blackbucks, are reported to have died within the campus of IIT Madras in the past six months up till December 2021, according to an RTI reply. The reply also states that postmortem of only 15 spotted deer was conducted, while that of 20 other deer was not conducted.

The details were sought by animal right activist R Aswin Kumar under the RTI Act. According to the reply sent from the Wildlife Warden’s office, there were 31 spotted deer deaths within the campus between July and December 2021 (with the highest number of 11 deaths taking place in the month of December), and four blackbuck deaths in the same period. However, postmortem of only 15 spotted deer was conducted, according to the reply. Of the 15, three were conducted by the Tamil Nadu Veterinary & Animal Sciences University (TANUVAS), Veperi and 12 by the veterinarian at Chennai wildlife division. Postmortem of four blackbucks has been conducted, and the reports are awaited.

Further, of the postmortems carried out on 15 deer, it was found that two deer died of Tuberculosis (TB), two of weakness, four deer of plastic/polythene indigestion and two due to dog bites. The reply also stated that no deer or blackbucks died due to accidents.

It may be noted that over 180 dogs were caught and confined to shelters in IIT Madras since September 2020, and at least 57 of them died in a span of 13 months within the premises. Insisting that the deer and blackbucks were being attacked by stray dogs, the institute with the help of an NGO from Nagercoil named Jeeva Karunya Trust, captured 180 stray dogs for the purpose of vaccinating and sterilising them. However, they were not released and were found to be kept in improper conditions, leading to their deaths.

Prior to the capture of the dogs, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had ordered IIT Madras to form a committee and look into the concerns raised in the case filed by animal rights activist Antony Rubin in 2017, stating that improper solid waste management and loud noise inside the campus were a threat to wildlife. Following this order, a committee was formed in December 2019. However, the IIT management stood its ground that the dogs were the reason for the deaths of the deer and blackbucks.

After a year of struggle by animal rights activists, the Madras High Court in December last year ordered the release of the then remaining 22 stray dogs that were alive out of the 186 stray dogs that were captured and illegally confined.

Speaking to TNM, founder of People for Cattle in India (PFCI) Arun Prasanna said that it was extremely weird that the postmortem for 20 deer was reportedly not done as they are covered under the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA). “They are duty bound to get the postmortem done. But if it is not done, it might be that the reason for the deaths is something which could expose the IIT-M management, and it will be problematic as there are ongoing cases in the NGT and HC”, he said.

Arun said that 35 deaths in six months is a ‘high number’ of deaths and it has been accepted that four deer died due to plastic pollution. “The IIT-M management is completely responsible as the system of the institute is such that nobody can enter the campus, unless they have a valid reason and paperwork. They also made the campus dog-free, saying that dogs were the reason for deer deaths, so who is responsible for the deaths now?’, he asked and added that there might be unreported deaths which could increase the total death toll.

Saying that there are around 200 deer inside the campus, Arun puts forth two main reasons which could have caused the deaths. “They are not sensitive towards wildlife or domestic animals, focusing only on the infrastructure and development. The roads are well-laid and people commute at high speeds. So, there are chances that these animals are involved in collisions and accidents. Another reason is that there is no proper waste management and one can spot garbage dumped in several areas. There are close to 8000 residents in the campus. Some action should be taken with regard to these two things.”

In a statement, IIT Madras said that data actually showed a steady decline of deaths of deer on campus in 2021, compared to previous years. "The death of deer on campus due to dog bite has reduced from 28 in 2020 to 5 in 2021 as communicated by wildlife authorities on January 7, 2022 to IIT Madras. There are about 15-16 dogs that are still roaming wild on campus harming the deer, blackbuck, and monitor lizards. The most recent feral dog bite on a blackbuck was in November 2021, leading to grievous injury and later death of the blackbuck during treatment. There is a constant movement of birds, reptiles, and mammals between the contiguous areas of Guindy National Park, and the IIT Madras campus," the statement said.  
"When a deer is injured or dead, Tamil Nadu Forest Department takes the deer away from the campus.  The treatment is given at a local NGO for the injured deer, as decided by the Tamil Nadu Forest Department. The post-mortem report on dead deer is decided by the Forest Department and not by IIT Madras. As IIT Madras is not provided a copy of the post mortem report IIT-M is not able to identify the cause of death. It is surprising that a local NGO treating injured animals has filed a case to retain the dogs that cause injury to the deer within the IIT campus. IIT Madras has taken rigorous steps to reduce plastic use and eliminate plastic waste on the campus. IIT Madras is a campus that cares for biodiversity and all measures have been taken to keep the campus safe for the deer," it added.

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