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Chhattisgarh’s wild buffalo gives birth to a female calf
Udanti, March 13, 2015: At 4:40 AM on March 12, 2015, Udanti-Sitanadi Tiger Reserve’s only surviving female wild buffalo (Asha), gave birth to a female calf after a string a male calves giving hope to conservationists who have dedicated their lives in protecting and conserving Chhattisgarh’s highly endangered state animal. Asha and her newly born calf (Kiran) are healthy and are being monitored by a team of experts from Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and Chhattisgarh Forest Department.

The natural mating was recorded on April 28, 2014, at wild buffalo WTI’s rescue centre in Udanti WLS and the gestation period of the newborn was 10 months and 10 days. The wild buffalo is listed in Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. With less than 4000 individuals estimated to be remaining in the wild, the species is also classified as endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

“This is very good news for us which would be critical in the conservation of Wild buffalo population in the state. I would like to thank our entire team for their efforts and also our technical partner WTI for playing a wonderful role in conservation of wild buffalo,” said Shri K.C. Bebarta, APCCF (WL), Chhattisgarh.

WTI’s Udanti Wild Buffalo Recovery Project aims to stabilise the population of wild buffalo in Udanti Wildlife Sanctuary, Chhattisgarh by implementing a number of ex situ and in situ interventions. A WTI survey estimated that not more than 50 individuals survived in three sub-populations in Indravati National Park, Pamed and Udanti Wildlife Sanctuaries in Chhattisgarh. In 2007, the survey established that only seven wild buffaloes remained in Udanti and that only one of them was female. In addition to the critically low population, wild buffaloes in Udanti also face threats in the form of extreme competition for resources from livestock, conflicts and habitat degeneration among others.

The estimated population of the wild buffalo in Northeastern India, is roughly around 2800- 3050 individuals, and constitutes the largest population aggregate within the Indian landscape today, accounting for almost 92% of the world population.

The WTI helped the Chhattisgarh Forest Department prepare a five-year Action Plan for the recovery of the wild buffalo population in Udanti. The Action Plan which was subsequently approved by the governing council of the project comprised three basic objectives – ensuring zero unnatural deaths of the remaining individuals, habitat improvement, and population augmentation by re-stocking (especially females) from closely-related populations or conservation breeding. WTI also helped to forest department to submit a proposal to MoEF, Govt of India, under the species recovery plan during the year of 2012. The MoEF has approved the project and provides more than Rs 110 lakhs per year to the state under the recovery plan.

“This is a very special day for me and I have been eagerly waiting for this day since last the 10 years. We have put a lot of effort in trying to save this highly endangered animal and this day would go a long way in protecting this magnificent species,” said Dr. R.P. Mishra, Head, Wild Buffalo Recovery Project & Regional Head-Central India, WTI.

In 2014, in a first of its kind experiment, National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI), Karnal, successfully cloned Asha and produced a female calf through the Hand Guiding Cloning Technique. The female calf was named “Deepasha” and was born on December 12, 2014, by normal parturition.

“This day will be remembered for long in wild buffalo conservation in the state. It is great news for all those associated with Buffalo Recovery Project and I wish to congratulate the Chhattisgarh Forest Department and WTI team for their efforts in conserving this species,” said Dr Rahul Kaul, Chief Ecologist, WTI.

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