<%-- Page Title--%> Wild Life <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 130 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

November 14, 2003

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Of Slow The Threatened Samber of Bangladesh

Kh Ismat Hasan Jahid

The male is called the Stag, ornamented with extra fur and a remarkably noticeable pair of antennae over the forehead for which it is called the antelope of Bangladesh. It has already lost six of its other neighbours of the order Artiodactyla, some in remote and some in recent past. IUCN (International Union Conservation of Nature and Natural resources) Bangladesh identified those six extinct large bodied herbivores and they are the Gaur (Bos Gaurus), the Benteg (Bos benteng), the Wild Buffalo (Bubalus bubalis), the Nilgai or Blue bull (Boselephus tragocamelis), the Swamp Deer (Cervus duvauceli) and finally the Hog Deer (Axis porcinus).

The Sambar is still surviving with its three other members of the order Artiodactyla like the Barking Deer or Maya Horin (Muntiacus muntjac), the Mainland Serow or Ban Chagol (Capricornis sumatraensis) and the Spotted Deer or Chitra Horin. Out of these four surviving Artiodactyla, except the Spotted Deer, other threes are in the Red List of IUCN and the Barking Deer is endangered whereas the Sambar and the Bon Chagol belong to the category Critically endangered.

The Sambar, which once upon a time played havoc with the early growing croplands and thus a headache to the farmers, is now in the list of threatened animals. But their actual status is still a question, as the dwellers of those areas cannot say when they last saw a Sambar in the areas where these antelopes used to be seen usually. IUCN says an animal is extinct at least locally, when it is not seen in its natural habitat for at least 50 years.

The Sambar (Cervus unicolor) belongs to the order Artiodactyla and family cervidae has a body colour of uniformly dark grey without any spot. The males are called the stags and only the stags contain antlers; each with three tines. Hairs are rough and shaggy with a body length of 1.7-2.7 metres. Its weight is 150-315 kg.

It is distributed in the forests of Chittagong Hill Tracts. Its extra territorial distribution is India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. It is a typical forest deer and prefers hillsides near cultivation. Solitary in non-breeding season and active by night it feeds on grass leaves wild fruits and crops beside its territory. The Samber moves remarkably silently through dense forests and are very good swimmers. The gestation period is about eight months and after that one or rarely two fawns are born.

The unusual and amazing character of the samber is that they live in groups in breeding season and the male contains harems. IUCN says that the males actually acquire harems. A harem is always surrounded by a good numbers of females that take care of the stag in every possible aspect and in return of this the stag ensures the protection of the female group. But acquiring harems is not an easy job. It requires severe physical combat with other. In some cases one male acquires the harems with the death of another. Though it looks better to live with harems, in reality living in a harem is rather disadvantageous for long-term survival, as it requires physical combat between stags. The other problem is, only one stag is allowed in a group and after the birth of a new male, it becomes a huge problem to allow the new born in the same group after its maturity. Sometimes the old one is replaced by the new through physical combat and the old one dies which was supposed to live some years more. Thus either the old one dies or the new male gets lonely failing the combat and if there is no available group, the evicted one dies losing its potentiality as it does not get its harems.

IUCN Bangladesh identified the causes of dwindling stags population. They identified hunting and habitat loss as two major factors. And there is this habit of killing each other in group. IUCN is taking the measure to protect it by captive breeding followed by the return to nature. Under the Wildlife Preservation Amendment Act 1974, the government has declared 11 forested areas as sanctuaries where the wild animals are protected from hunters or any other intruders. Out of those 11 sanctuaries, 5 of them are of evergreen type and hence could be a sound habitat for the return of the Sambar.

Moreover, the Pubakhali wildlife sanctuary, established in 1962 and declared as such in 1983 by the Government can be the best habitat as these Sambars were seen in this area many years ago in good numbers. Dhaka National Zoo has some Sambars that can be used as a breeding stock. The colony consists of male, female and the pleasant news is, they breed here in the zoo and the thriving rate is consistent.


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