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

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 155 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

May 21, 2004

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The Threatened Samber of Bangladesh

Kh. Ismat Hasan Jahid

The male is known as the Stag, ornamented with extra furs 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 (The World Conservation Union) 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 was a huge trouble for the early growing croplands and thus a threat to the farmers, is now in the list of threatened animals according to IUCN Bangladesh. But their actual status is still a question, as the dwellers of those areas cannot say when they saw last time a Sambar in the areas where these antelopes used to be seen usually. And 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 gray without any spot. The males are called the stage contain antlers; each with three tines. Hairs rough and shaggy with a body length 1.7-2.7 metres. Weight is 150-315kg.

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 as it is nocturnal by nature. It feeds on grass leaves, wild fruits and crops beside its territory. Moves remarkably silently through dense forests and a very good swimmer. The gestation period is about eight months and after that one or rarely two fawns are born.

But the unusual amazing character that it contains is they live in groups in breeding season and the male contains harems. IUCN says that the males actually acquire harems. It is always surrounded by a good numbers of females that take care of the stag in every possible aspect and instead of this the stag ensures the protection of the female group. But acquiring harems is not an easy job. It requires severe physical combat between and among males. In some of the cases one male acquire the harems with the death of another. Thus though it looks better to live with harems, in reality living in harem is rather disadvantageous for long-term survival, as it requires physical combat between stages. Other problem is, only one stag is allowed in a group and after the born of a new male, it becomes a huge problem to allow the new born in the 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 loneliness 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 its being threatened are hunting and habitat loss, but still this species is in the habit of killing each other in group. IUCN is how ever taking the measures to protect it by captive breeding following by the return to the nature. Under the Wildlife Preservation Amendment Act '1974, the government has declared 11 forested areas as sanctuaries where the wild animals are totally 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 Publakhali 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 a very good number. Dhaka National Zoo has some Sambars that can be used as a breeding stock. The colony consists of male, female and the stag and the pleasant news is, they breed here in the zoo and the thriving rate is consistent.


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