Once infamous for hunters and poachers, Muzaffarnagar, a town located midway between the Delhi-Dehradun highway, is once again nature's paradise where a large herd of swamp deer, a critically endangered species, was spotted lately.
Found in north India, and now extinct in several countries, the discovery was a pleasant surprise. "I was on inspection (this Sunday) when I suddenly spotted a large herd of this endangered deer species near Jansath, (a tehsil in Muzaffarnagar).
"By the next day our team of experts discovered 143 swamp deer. We almost found a treasure trove," says Sanjay Kumar, Commissioner of Saharanpur Range of Uttar Pradesh.
Innumerable poachers in the past, few decades back hunted for this rare species and almost wiped it out from the marshy wetlands in western Uttar Pradesh and foothills of the Himalayas bordering Terai area.
Wildlife experts, who have been provided drone fitted cameras to sight more such herds around the wetland, told IANS that swamp deer could have migrated from Jhilmil lake, a marshy grassland near Rajaji National Park in Haridwar.
Till Wednesday evening around 150 swamp deer, including a good number of fawns were spotted and with the help of drones the overall count of deer in 18,000 hectare of marshy wetland in Haiderpur was now likely to exceed 250.
In fact, the Haiderpur wetland, a 45-minute detour from Muzaffarnagar town, is home to 290 species of birds. Every year the place is home to one of the largest congregation of grey leg goose and bar headed goose in India.
"Acknowledging such rich biodiversity in Haiderpur, a proposal was recently sent to the state government to declare this as a 'Ramsar Site' (wetland of International importance). But now, after spotting a large herd of rare swamp deer, we also want to declare it as Swamp Deer National Conservation Reserve," said Commissioner Sanjay Kumar, a senior IAS officer, adding "let me tell you another interesting point. Swamp deer known as Barasingha happens to be the state animal of Uttar Pradesh."
Despite a ban on hunting swamp deer under the Wildlife Protection Act, desperate poachers and hunters killed Barasinghas in large numbers. Four decades back, the population of swamp deer was reduced to 66 when Madhya Pradesh launched conservation work in the Kanha National Park to protect this rare species.
The Yogi Adityanath government is also contemplating to declare the 33,000 acre of Shivalik Forests Reserve under the Saharanpur Division as Tiger Reserve.
On the basis of camera trap findings, movement of tigers was discovered in the forest reserve which adjoins the Rajaji National Park. The census (2018) reveals that Uttar Pradesh has a tiger population of 173, while neighbouring Uttarakhand state has 442 tigers, a majority of them seen in Jim Corbett and Rajaji national park..