In so many visits to Tal Chapar, I’ve been rather partial to the feathered bipeds (read Birds) over the ubiquitous horned quadrupeds (read Blackbucks) that stroll this beautiful grassland. May be their sheer numbers in the park lulls one into forgetting the fact that they are declining everywhere else. So it was decided – this time around I would give more attention to these graceful antelopes.
The first morning at Tal Chapar was very cloudy, a possible hangover from the late rains this year. Some parts of the park were still unmotorable. Seeing some Kestrels (small falcons) in the distance, we parked the car at one place and walked by the wet safari track. Incidentally, this track also runs by a colony of male Blackbucks. Many of these beautiful mammals dotted the landscape all around.
As we walked around, one of the Blackbucks decided to cross the road in front of us. As it reached the road, it broke out into a quick stride followed by a run and some amazing leaps.
Being in the grass may give the Blackbucks a sense of security. The bare safari path might look like a dangerous territory to be in, especially with people around. I guess that might spur them into escape mode, and they calm down as soon as they reach “safe zone” again.
A few facts about Blackbucks:
- The repeated leaping behaviour of Blackbucks is called stotting. It is believed to be a signal to the predator that the animal is healthy and not worth being chased. Of course, the main predator of the Blackbuck – the Asiatic Cheetah – went extinct about 6 decades ago. Today, wolves and jackals (that hunt fawns) are the chief predators, apart from man and feral dogs.
- Blackbucks are the fastest land mammals in India. They can clock speeds upto 80 kmph!
- Blackbucks are declining over most of their range and are classified as Near Threatened. In Tal Chapar, however, their number seems to have trebled over the past decade owing to some amazing conservation work by the Forest Department.
- Blackbucks are antelopes, not deer. How does one differentiate an antelope from a deer? Do write your thoughts in the comments section below.
Here’s a few more images of an airborne female Blackbuck from that morning.