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Blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra)

  • Context (DTE): Over two dozen waterholes are filled with water using tankers for blackbucks of Bihar’s Bhojpur, Buxar and Rohtas districts.

Why blackbucks are so important to Bishnois who sent Salman Khan to jail | Why blackbucks are so important to Bishnois who sent Salman Khan to jail

  • Also known as Indian Antelope, it is the sole extant member of the genus Antilope.
  • Formerly widespread across almost the whole of the Indian subcontinent, they are now limited to only small, scattered herds in Nepal, India and Pakistan.

Physical Features

  • Blackbucks have slender and elegant bodies, pointed and delicate hooves and possess narrow, sheep-like muzzles and short tails.
  • Their colouration depends on gender: the back, the sides, and the outer side of the legs are rich dark brown in males and yellowish in females.
  • Both males and females have white underparts including the insides of the legs as well as a white ring around their eyes.

Characteristics

  • They are seen in groups of 7-10. A mature female is generally the group leader.
  • It is diurnal (active mainly during the day).
  • They are considered as one of the fastest running animals on earth.

Habitat and Range

  • Prefers tropical and subtropical savanna/rangeland and grassland.
  • May also inhabit dry deciduous forest, woodland, semi-desert habitats, riverbanks and pasture.
  • It is also found at the foothills of the Himalayas where the climate is moderate and jungles are not very dense.
  • In India, they are found predominantly in the states of Gujarat, Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana.

Conservation Status

  • IUCN: Least Concern | WPA, 1972: Schedule I | CITES: Appendix III
  • Threats: Excessive hunting, deforestation and habitat degradation.
  • It has been declared as the State Animal of Punjab, Haryana, and Andhra Pradesh.

Significance in Indian Culture

  • The antelope might have been a source of food in the Indus Valley civilisation (3300–1700 BCE); bone remains have been discovered in sites such as Dholavira and Mehrgarh.
  • The blackbuck is routinely depicted in miniature paintings of the Mughal era (16th to 19th centuries) depicting royal hunts often using cheetahs.
  • Tribes such as the Bishnois revere and care for the blackbuck.
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