BENGALURU: The only sanctuary for four-horned antelopes (FHA) in Karnataka- Rangayyanadurga Wildlife Sanctuary in Jagaluru taluk of Davanagere district has finally got the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) tag. This will pave way for effective protection and conservation of FHAs, who are under constant threat of poaching, habitat loss and fragmentation.
The ESZ will include a total area of 137.14 square kilometres while the extent will vary from 0.95 to 4.5 kilometres around the boundary of this sanctuary. At least 30 villages will fall within this zone where many commercial, industrial and hazardous activities will be prohibited.
An area of 77.24 square kilometres was notified as the Rangayyanadurga Wildlife Sanctuary in January 2011. With this, the species was granted special status, thereby enhancing the protection of the primitive bovid.
Increasing threats from different quarters
Home to a unique antelope species endemic to India, this sanctuary has a few surviving population of FHAs. Of late, it has been facing increasing threats from various quarters. Presently, it is confined to the Indian sub- continent - occurring in small, isolated populations in various states.
Wildlife experts in Davanagere say it is threatened by conversion of its habitat for agriculture while the unusual skull and its four horns are hunted by trophy hunters. It is also hunted for its meat by poachers.
T S Ranawat, DCF, Ballari adds that the FHA population is scattered and its assessment is very difficult.
“These antelopes are rarely visible and are shy. Most of the grasslands are not protected which is their habitat. In Ballari, we do not have specific population figure. Last year, we tried to assess near water holes and even did camera trapping in Sandur. But not much was found. With most of the habitat fragmented, they live in isolated pockets.”
Vulnerable under IUCN Red List
Currently listed as vulnerable under IUCN Red List and also in Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act, the four-horned antelopes are found in deciduous forests across India and Nepal. Just half a metre tall, this species has a yellowish brown to reddish coat. Sometimes, they are found in loose groups of 3-5 animals. If one pair of horns is located between the ears, the other pair is on their forehead.