A narrow mud road behind Bharat Heavy Earth Movers Limited, in the town of Kolar Gold Fields (KGF), leads to a hidden, lush grassland that is home to Blackbucks (Antilope cervicapra), also known as Indian antelope. Blackbucks are found in small numbers in and around Tumkur and KGF. They may have migrated to these grasslands after the mining stopped. This is their home now and very few people except the locals know that they exist here. These grasslands, though unprotected, serve as safe haven for a thriving population of Blackbucks.
The terrain at Kolar Gold Fields has rocky mounds, which serve as perfect perches for harriers and other birds of prey that are found here. The aforementioned mud road widens a bit as one proceeds further, leading to an open meadow with thorny bushes and shrubs. An SUV would be a good option to move inside, as there is no specific path.
During one of my trips, as I entered the grasslands at dawn, a Barred Button Quail greeted me. Restless babblers flying frantically are a common sight. The grassland also has kestrels, and if you are lucky, you can even spot a hare peeping out from a bush. Bee-eaters are seen if one is observant. The grassland also hosts other resident birds like Baya Weaver, Ashy Prinia, Pied Bushchat, Tricoloured Munia and also Karnataka’s state bird, the Indian Roller (blue jay).
At a distance, I spotted the strikingly long spiral horns of Blackbucks. Herds of adult Blackbucks and fawns were leaping and grazing around. To create good images, I followed them and discovered their water hole, which also had egrets fishing and grebes swimming.
Blackbucks are gregarious antelopes, and congregate in open plains and form territories. Territorial behaviour is also an aspect of social behaviour, for social animals like Blackbucks. Blackbuck territories have reproductive connections and are held by mature, adult males. Territory-holding is a prerequisite to mating. Female Blackbucks form herds of their own, with juveniles of both sexes. They feed mostly outside the territorial mosaic and enter the territories in large numbers at a time, where the males then try to retain as many females as they can.
In my last few visits, the Blackbuck population at KGF looked quite good, but the reality that this is not a notified land still looms large, as the grassland is vulnerable to misuse of any sort. The rapid growth of industries around the Blackbucks’ habitat is a growing concern, as the grasslands are depleting. The change in the cultivation pattern of farmers too may affect these areas, and there is also the threat from domestic dogs.
Through my photographs, I would like to appeal that this grassland be notified by the forest department, to pave the way for the safe future of these beautiful animals.