CHENNAI: In the last fortnight, more than a dozen spotted deer have been killed by jackals inside the Arignar Anna Zoological Park at Vandalur, on the city���s outskirts.
According to zoo officials, over the last fortnight, some spotted deer in the free range zone ��� an open area which makes up the bulk of the 1,300-acre park and where animals such as deer and jackals are left to roam free ��� were found dead with their stomach punctured. There were no other injuries on the dead animals.
���The pattern of the deaths gave the impression that the jackals could not have killed the deer for food alone. We are looking at other possible reasons as well,��� a biologist pointed out.
There are more than 500 deer of different varieties and an equal number of jackals in the free range zone. Apart from this, there are four enclosures for deer ��� each housing about 30 animals.
The deaths continued to be reported even as officials attempted to track the reasons for the killings. Officials said they have now pieced together all the evidence, including the footmarks of the predator. However, they have been unable to trap any of the jackals. One of the reasons attributed to the delay in efforts to stop the killing of the deer is the need to maintain the deer-jackal ratio in the zoo.
The two animals are found in equal numbers and are known for their fast-breeding ability, especially in their natural environment. Zoo officials are keen to maintain the ratio by the ���natural method of selection��� ��� allowing the stronger ones to prey on the weaker ones.
P L Ananthasamy, zoo director and the chief conservator of forests, stressed that ���no deer had died inside the zoo.��� The incidents, he claimed, were a natural way of balancing the ecological system. ���It is natural for weaker animals to be hunted by stronger ones in the wild. It helps balance the (eco)system and maintain the ratio of these animals. On the other hand, the deer in the enclosures are safe,��� he said.
The 1300-acre Vandalur Zoo, 31 km from Chennai, houses hundreds of deer of different varieties, including barking deer, sambar, blackbuck, nilgai, sangai, hog and spotted deer. In 1979, it was shifted to its present location from Park Town by the Tamil Nadu Forest Department.
Last month, the zoo saw the deaths of an 18-year-old female king cobra and a 23-year-old lioness.