|A blackbuck at the Blackbuck National Park in Gujarat, India|
Antilope cervicapra centralis
The blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra) is an antelope species native to the Indian Subcontinent that has been classified as near threatened by IUCN since 2003, as the blackbuck range has decreased sharply during the 20th century.
The blackbuck is the only living species of the genus Antilope. Its generic name stems from the Latin word antalopus, a horned animal. The species cervicapra is composed of the Latin words capra, she-goat and cervus, deer.
Males and females have distinctive coloration. Male blackbucks are dark brown, black, and white and have long, twisted horns, while females are fawn-coloured with no horns. Blackbucks closely resemble kobs.
Body length: 100–140 cm (3.3–4.6 ft)
Shoulder height: 64–84 cm (2.10–2.76 ft)
Tail length: 10–17 cm (3.9–6.7 in)
Weight: 25–40 kg (55–88 lb)
The horns of the blackbuck are ringed with one to four spiral turns, with rarely more than four turns; they can be as long as 79 cm (31 in). A trophy blackbuck is greater than 46 cm (18 in). In the male, the upper body is black (dark brown), and the belly and eye rings are white. The light-brown female is usually hornless.
Albinism in blackbuck is rare and caused by the lack of the pigment melanin. The animal looks fully white due to the lack of melanin in its skin. Wildlife experts say the biggest problem with these albinos is they are singled out by predators and hunted.
Blackbucks originally ranged over large tracts of India except in the northeast. Today, the blackbuck population is confined to areas in Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, with a few small pockets in central India.
The four subspecies or geographic races of Antilope cervicapra are:
As a hunt species of animal the blackbuck is present in private free ranges in countrys like Argentina and the U.S.A.
Blackbucks generally live on open plains in herds of 15 to 20 animals with one dominant male. They are very fast. Speeds of more than 80 km/h (50 mph) have been recorded. Their chief predator was the now extinct Indian cheetah. They are now sometimes preyed upon by wolves and feral dogs.
The diet of the blackbuck consists mostly of grasses, although it will eat pods, flowers and fruits to supplement its diet. The maximum life span recorded is 16 years and the average is 12 years.
The main threats to the species are poaching, predation, habitat destruction, overgrazing, diseases, inbreeding and sanctuary visitors.
Large herds once roamed freely on the plains of North India, where they thrived best. During the 18th, 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries, blackbuck was the most hunted wild animal all over India. Until India's independence in 1947, many princely states hunted this antelope and Indian gazelle, the chinkara, with specially trained captive Asiatic cheetahs. (Asiatic cheetahs became extinct in the 1960s.) It once was one of the most abundant hoofed mammals in the Indian Subcontinent, so much so that as late as early 1900s, naturalist Richard Lydekker mentioned herds of hundreds in his writings. Today, only small herds are seen, largely inside reserves. The chief cause of their decline is excessive hunting. Though the royal sport had ended, farmers of the expanding areas of cultivation saw it as crop-raider, further leading to its decline. Eventually, when in the 1970s, several areas reported their extinction, it was listed as a protected animal under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. The blackbuck is hunted for its flesh and its skin. Although Indian law strictly prohibits the hunting of these endangered animals, occasional incidents of poaching still occur. The remaining populations are under threat from inbreeding. The natural habitat of the blackbuck is being encroached upon by man's need for arable land and grazing ground for domesticated cattle. Exposure to domesticated cattle also exposes them to bovine diseases.
Its protected status has gained publicity through a widely reported court case, in which one of India's leading film stars, Salman Khan, was sentenced to five years imprisonment for killing two blackbucks and several endangered chinkaras. The arrest was prompted by intense protests from the Bishnoi ethnic group, which holds animals and trees sacred, and on whose land the hunting had taken place.
In another notorious incident of criminal poaching, Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi also killed a blackbuck, and then absconded as a fugitive. He finally surrendered only when the case was transferred from the criminal court to a special environment court, where he would face lighter sentencing.
Like most wild animals, the blackbuck is in principle protected in India by the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. The blackbuck population is stable, with 50,000 native individuals, plus an additional 43,000 descended from individuals introduced to Texas and Argentina. The species can be seen in zoos.
They are also found in open areas near Dindori, Madhya Pradesh at Karopani Black Buck Conservation Area, which is located about 15 km from Dindori and also near Koppal in Koppal District about 15km from its headquarters.
The blackbuck is known by various names such as pulvaai, thirugumaan, velimaan, kadamaan, iralai, karinchikedai and murugumaan in Tamil. It is also known as Krishna Mruga in Kannada and as Krishna Jinka in Telugu, it has been declared as the state animal of Andhra Pradesh. Other local names for the species include Krishnasar in Bengali, Kala Hiran, Sasin, Iralai Maan, and Kalveet in Marathi. It is often simply called Indian antelope, though this term might also be used for other Antilopinae from the region.
The skin of Krishna Mrugam plays an important role in Hinduism, and Brahmin boys are traditionally required to wear a strip of unleathered hide after performing Upanayanam. According to the Hindu mythology blackbuck or Krishna Jinka is considered as the vehicle (vahana) of the Moon-god Chandrama. According to the Garuda Purana of Hindu mythology, Krishna Jinka bestows prosperity in the areas where they live.
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