CHENNAI: The elite IIT-Madras, which is blessed with rich flora and fauna, is fast losing its unique identity. Wildlife deaths on the campus have touched a new high, with 99 animals reported dead in 2017. In four months from November 2017 to February 2018, 46 animals died, including three endangered blackbucks. The Forest Department revealed the information while replying to an RTI application filed by animal welfare activist Antony C Rubin. Of the total number of animal casualties, 82 were spotted deer, four blackbucks, three jackals, one wild dog and nine monkeys.
These numbers are startling, considering the fact that IIT-Madras has been issued a stern warning by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), to take appropriate measures to minimise wildlife deaths. To be fair, the institution did initiate some proactive measures to manage its solid waste like putting in place monkey-proof bins, banning use of plastic in packaging and speeding up sterilisation of stray dogs. But still, deer and blackbuck deaths seem to be increasing year after year.
Between 2013 and 2016, 220 deer and eight blackbucks died. On an average, 70 animals perish both due to natural and unnatural causes. Rubin told Express that 99 animal deaths in a year was alarming. “The NGT in November warned the IIT-M of invoking the polluter pays principle, if found guilty of negligence that resulted in injury or death of any deer or blackbuck. Since November, about 38 deer and three blackbucks have died, of which many are unnatural deaths. But since the NGT Bench is dysfunctional, it is becoming difficult to seek justice,” Rubin said.
Rubin also raised a suspicion that IIT-M has been under-reporting the deaths. For instance, on July 19, 2017, a black buck fawn died and he asked a specific question about the incident in the RTI application. However, the Forest Department had no information on it. When contacted, IIT-M officials blamed the rising wildlife deaths on dogs and monkeys.
“Dog menace is the biggest challenge the institute is facing in protecting the wildlife. Almost all fawn in the campus are finding it difficult to survive. Dogs are hunting down these very young animals and mothers. Since the IIT-M is not a designated wildlife area like Guindy National Park, we are unable to get rid of the dogs,” said a senior official.
While green space on the campus has been diminishing, IIT has also fallen victim to garbage dumping by families that live in the neighbourhood. The institute has hastened stray dog sterilisation programme, of late
Going gets tough
2017 was the worst year in terms of wildlife deaths for IIT, with 99 animals reported dead. From November 2017 to February 2018, 46 animals died, including three endangered blackbucks.