Puri: Deer population in Odisha’s Balukhand Wildlife Sanctuary are facing serious hardship. The Indian antelopes are struggling for their survival for the last over 7 months.

Ever since their habitat flanking the Puri-Konark marine drive was ravaged by the Cyclone Fani in May this year, the spotted dear population in this sanctuary are facing the problem of food, water and shelter.

The thick casuarina forest had been a comfortable abode of this sensitive creatures. The 87 square km sanctuary is a home to a wide range of fauna, including 4000 spotted dear or chital, birds and other species such as jackals, hyenas, jungle cats and monitor lizards. The rivulets that flows to the sea, the grazing fields were ecosystem that was meeting their food and water requirement. Now with the destruction of their habitat, their life is now in peril.

Quite interestingly, before the cyclone had its landfall in the Balukhand sanctuary, the herd of deer fled the forest for safety elsewhere. The wildlife officials were worried about their disappearance. It was decided to spot them using drones. However, the animals of their own came back to the only to face new hardship.

Movement of Chital in the sanctuary has been restricted due to large number of uprooted trees jamming their regular pathways. Out of over 20 lakh trees uprooted in the cyclone, only 2 lakh have been cleared so far.

Wildlife experts are worried that the dry leaf and the wood piled up in the forest may catch fire and destroy the black buck population.

Moreover, they point out, due to delay in cleaning the forest of the debris, grazing fields are not coming up. The herbivores may face food scarcity in coming months.

Meanwhile, the State forest and environment minister Bikram Keshari Arakhu has directed to clean up the forest with utmost priority.

In the State Wildlife Board Standing Committee meeting, chaired by Arakhu, it has been decided that the dry leaves and twigs would be handed over to the local 28 Environment Development Societies for their daily use. The logs would handed over to the Lord Jaganath Temple and the Puri Swargadwara (funeral ground) free of cost.