With the row over relocation of deer reaching the Madras high court, it is time Chennaiites and authorities realised that these animals have lost their foraging grounds to unbridled urbanisation.
This week, the forest department informed the high court that 497 spotted deer died on IIT-M and CLRI campuses during the last five years. The dead deer had 4-6 kg of plastic waste in their stomach.
The department further said deer are captured and relocated from non-forest areas as the animals faced several threats like vehicle hits, electric lines, constructions, pipelines, feral dog attacks, solid waste ingestion, food waste and even junk food feeding by children.
The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests & Chief Wildlife Warden was responding to a plea filed against relocating deer from CLRI campus. He further said captured deer were housed in quarantine for a fortnight and tested for contagious diseases. And if the deer were free from all contagious diseases, a decision to relocate them to suitable forest areas was taken. He also added that there has been no single death during capture/transit while relocating them to forest areas. Deer population has spilled over to Taramani, Velachery, Kotturpuram and Adyar after several buildings cropped up on IIT-M and Anna university campuses during the last two decades.
In 2017, the southern bench of the National Green Tribunal, Chennai, directed the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board and the Chennai corporation to inspect IIT-Madras campus in connection with the death of 300 deer there. NGT also directed the management of IIT-M to clean the campus and remove all debris in a week.
In 2018, 39 deer rescued from Taramani were kept in Guindy National Park for observation. Several of them died due to stress, internal injuries and plastic ingestion. Photographs of deer ingesting plastic went viral on social media then.
In January this year, for the first time, 10 spotted deer travelled for 700 km in a specially-designed truck to Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve in Tirunelveli district.
Animal activists and experts say ‘capturing’ deer by force may prove fatal to them. Guiding them towards IIT campus or children’s park in Guindy without noise or stress is not an easy job. Concretisation has left herds of spotted deer without shelter driving them to stray into residential areas at regular intervals. While the forest department has no option but to shift spotted deer to suitable forest areas to save them, people on their part must help improve their habitat and stop indiscriminate dumping of garbage, especially plastics, at all places. Buildings mushrooming on campuses with abundant green cover must also stop.