The University of Hyderabad, spread across an area of 1600 acres, was home to hundreds of deer earlier, but their numbers have declined to around 50 now. With yet another carcass being found in the University premises on Tuesday last, taking the total number of carcasses found in the last four years to more than 10, the deer count keeps dwindling even as officials blame stray dogs and poachers for these deaths.
There have been cases of poaching by the University staff and by the state government shooting range people besides other poachers in addition to the menace of stray dogs.
Within a span of two years, the Wild Lens group at the University of Hyderabad has caught around 65 poachers including trespassers. The Wild Lens group was started four years back by PhD scholars from the University who liked wild life photography, and they later volunteered to protect the deers.
Jillapalli Ravi, a 33-year-old PhD scholar in animal sciences told The News Minute,
"We formed a group 'Wild Lens' four years back due to an interest in wild life photography but later what we noticed was a drastic decrease in the numbers of deers, peacocks, wild boars, etc. Therefore we started to protect the wildlife and there were six deer carcasses found in the last few months and I think in a year the number will be more, around 10."
Most of the poachers were caught killing deer for their meat and they also distributed it to their friends.
“Ashok Jerripothula, a poacher who died on October 13, 2015 used to hunt monitor lizards, which are around 4-5 feet and used to sell them in Nanakaramguda market in Hyderabad. It has huge importance for Ayurveda. He used to hunt with trained stray dogs. We caught him four times but he was not punished. Finally, he died in a wild boar attack,” explained Wild Lens founder Ravi.
Ravi added that whenever they caught the culprits and handed them over to the staff, police or forest officials, they came out within no time without being punished. This is because there are no proper measures for implementation of wild life laws and as a result, poachers are escaping easily.
According to forest officials and the Wild Lens group, the main reason behind poaching is due to lack of a proper compound wall within the campus and due to some people's covert support inside the campus.
The University officials have also written several letters to the GHMC commissioner and deputy commissioner requesting to shift the stray dogs far away from the University.
A security chief officer at University of Hyderabad T.V Rao, told TNM, “We have requested GHMC to shift these stray dogs to far away from the University, a minimum 100kms away and GHMC should take this matter seriously at least now and should evacuate all dogs from the campus but we haven't got any response from GHMC yet. Day before yesterday, we submitted letters to GHMC commissioner and deputy Commissioner.”
"We have around 270 private guards and 20 permanent guards so in total we have 290 guards. We are deploying manpower in each and every department, the guards always run around the campus and are observing the poachers and the stray dogs, Rao added.
Forest officials claim that there is a lack of security at the campus as most of the guards are only deployed at the main entrance of the university, while security officials claim that they keep a strict vigil inside the campus.
A. Shankaran, a senior forest official, told TNM, “It’s a huge campus of 1600 acres, full of vegetation and it provides a natural ecosystem for animals like wild boar, peacocks, star turtles among others. The University wall is breached and broken from many sides and security people are always engaged at the main entrance and they are not patrolling inside the campus.”
"Observing these things, we have written a letter to the Vice Chancellor enumerating all the precautionary measures that the university officials should take,” he added.
A few of the precautionary measures suggested by the forest officials are:
The damaged portion of the campus wall should be repaired so that dogs don’t enter the campus.
Contact the GHMC dog squad for capturing the stray dogs, which are already inside the campus and to release them after sterilization which is done by the Blue Cross all over the city.
Put signboards all over the campus saying that hunting and poaching of wild animals are punishable under Wildlife Protection Act 1972 with imprisonment up to three years and fine up to Rs 25000.
Patrolling by security officials in the night on two wheelers or four wheelers to ensure that there is no poaching and illegal movement of people.
“Responding to our precautionary measures, the university officials have approached GHMC officials a few days ago. If the university officials take all the necessary steps, this issue can be resolved,” Shankaran said.