Saturday, January 17, 2009


My mission of searching the details of Amruth mahal cattle ranch was started five months ago. After frantic search for the head quarter of this ranch in Ajjampura, a small township of Tarikere taluk ,I was landed in a rather gloomy looking office on the Ajjampura and Tarikere road. The board on the office read Amruth mahal cattle development centre, established in 1512. the head of the office was one Dr Ranganath who was away from the office, though he assured me over phone that he would come back and assist me in my quest for knowing the history of this old establishment, he did not turn up I had to return empty handed, after few days I opened the shelves of my office store room, there was the hidden treasure of information on this grazing lands……….
The Amruth Mahal literally means milk department. Is an establishment for the breeding of a race of cattle peculiar to the erstwhile state of Mysore and famous for it utility for military purpose. The establishment was founded some time during the Vijaya nagara dynasty during 1512, with special privileges as regards to grazing, but it’s maintenance for special purposes of supplying draught cattle for artillery is due to Hydher Ali. He reported to have introduced a breed of cattle from Trichy, he produced the Hallikar breed, by a cross between Trichy breed and the indigenous breed of Mysore, which is considered to be best in the whole establishment. The imported breed from Trichi was small Brahmani bulls which are noted for the endurance and fast trotting powers. It was this establishment which enabled Hyder Ali to march 100 miles in 2 days and half, and after every defeat to draw of his guns in the face of enemies, further these cattle also enabled Tippu sultan to cross the peninsula in one month for recovery of Bedanur, even the Duke of Wellington during peninsula war exclaimed that he regretted that he had not the assistance of Amruth Mahal Cattle. After death of Tippu and Hyder , the management taken over by the British. A commissioner Captain Harvey was placed in charge by the establishment. The Amruth Mahal was re established in December 1857 with the assistance of Maharaja of Mysore. The cattle were divided in to 30 herds containing from 200 to 700 head of cattle each; for grazing of which 208 kaavals or pasture grounds were allotted from various part of erstwhile Mysore State. They were divided in to hot weather, wet weather and Cold weather Kaavals according to the seasons of the year during which they are of most use. Hot weather kaavals are generally the beds of tanks in which grass springs up during hot month, and in which there are trees for affording shade to the cattle during heat waves. These are very valuable kaavals and are reserved solely for Government Cattle. Basur Amruth Mahal kaval is also one of such hot weather kaaval as it is a tank bed. A cold and wet weather kaval are those which during those seasons have plenty of grass and water, but during the hot weather dries up and are little useful for the department, here in this kaval cattle’s of farmers are also permitted to graze in certain fixed portions. The head of these kaval are permitted to sell some part of grazing, and from funds thus obtained the kavalgar or guards are paid and other expenses met.

The Amruth Mahal cattle comprises of 3 verities.Viz Hallikar, Hagalwadi, Chitraldoorg they seldom attains an extraordinary height but in proportion to the size are remarkably deep and wide in the chest, long and broad in the back round in the barrel, and have got strong shoulders and limb.
An absurd legend was there among the herdsmen of the department regarding the origins of Hallikar. They state that Hydher Ali after one of his trips to south brought back to the Mysore a number of cows of the small Brahmani caste these cows were let loose in to a kaaval. (In Tumkur Distrist) In which there were great numbers of antelope, the cross between the big black buck and Small brahmani cows gave the present the Hallikar breed, in support of the story they point to the small patch below the eye, common to the antelope and Hallikar breed.
These cattle are very active and walk faster than troops; the cattle of these herds were kept in the wild state, without shelter of any description and are very fiery, and cannot be approached by strangers without the protection of herdsmen. And employment is extremely difficult and dangerous. They are as wild as other inhabitants of the kaaval.

My next mission was to visit this small place called Baasur which is on Beerur Yegati road

This is grassland with an extent of 1719-10. Acres the owner of these forests is veterinary department these areas were set aside for the grazing of Amrth mahal cattle. There is a viable population of black bucks in this grass lands, people are religiously bound to this horned ungulate. But the visiting shikaris of chickmagalore town and camping nomads are the major threat to these animals.

This grass land has got its typical herbivore and carnivore populations, the herbivores are black bucks which are fleet footed and lives in groups as protection strategy , there are around 40 plus individuals in different groups. Other than this fleet footed animals viz black bucks , fox, hares this grass lands has got burrowing animals like gerbils which are the largest prey base for the lesser carnivores like fox , wolf and jackals . These grasslands are also home to enormous insect population thus attracting a large number of predatory animals, birds of prey like harriers, eagles, etc and lizards like fan throated lizards are very common in Baasur grass lands

there is slight density of tree cover in this grass lands, the trunks of the trees are stunted and twisted the canopy is often umbrella shaped. The leaves are small; most often they are pinnate or bi pinnate they produce abundant seeds, and are dispersed by animals and wind. These trees have been found entangled with highly endangered medicinal creepers like Tinospora cardifolia (amruth balli),Tylosopra indica ( aadu muttada balli) , Cardiospermum halicacabum, Centella asiatica etc . the tree layer includes Acacia chundra, Acacia nilotica, Acacia arabica, Acacia ferugenia , Acacia planifrons,Cordia dichotoma , Hardwickia binata , Albigia amara, Zyziphus mauritiana , Acacia leucophloea , Bauhinia bifida, Todalia viscosa , Neem, Aegle marmelos, Ficus bengalensis , Feronia limonia, etc Crustose and foliose lichens are abundant on these trees .the shrub layer includes sps like cassia auriculata , euphorbia sps , dodania viscosa, carissa carandas, etc
. herbaceous layers includes Flugia sps, Acanthu sps,members of compositae,Phyllanthus neruri, Canthium

sps,Boehra via, Achyranthes aspera,Tridax procumbens ,Celosia argentea , Euphorbia hirta, Leucas aspera,Ocimum basilicum etc . xerophytic Opuntia dillenii,Euphorbia antiquorum have colonized these grass lands and spread all over. The grass layer is continuous and well developed the grass sps includes Andropogon sps,Echinochloa sps which are the favourite food of the black bucks they avoid tall grass.

Black bucks;

Scientific classification: The black buck is a member of the family Bovidae. It is classified as Antilope cervicapra.
The Black Buck, common name for an antelope, mainly found in India. The black buck has ringed horns that have a moderate spiral twist of three to four turns and are up to 70 cm (28 in) long. The adult male stands about 80 cm (about 32 in) at the shoulder and weighs 32 to 43 kg (71 to 95 lb). The body's upperparts are black; the under parts and a ring around the eyes are white. The light-brown female is usually hornless. Males are dark brown. Black bucks frequent the open plains in herds. When the rut (mating season) reaches a peak, one male establishes dominance. After six months the mated females each bear one fawn, which joins the herd with its mother about two weeks later and remains with her for more than a year. The fastest of the Indian antelopes, black bucks have been over hunted and are in danger of becoming extinct. This area supports a viable population of black bucks. This is highly endangered and listed in schedule 1 of the wild life protection Act

Indian wolf; (Canis lupus)
The Indian wolf (peninsular lineage) inhabits semi-arid agro-pastoral landscapes and scrub forests. It is considered endangered with its numbers believed to range between 2000-3000 individuals in entire India and around 550 in entire state of Karnataka, author has found 2 different pairs in this kaaval. Intensive radio-telemetry studies on 10 wolf packs at three sites differing in habitat, prey composition, and socio-economies has shown that undisturbed habitat patches of 6-12 Sq Km , that offer good cover and water are critical for successful breeding in established packs (Jhala). Wolf territories range between 150 to 250 km2 and are a function of prey and denning habitat availability. Indian wolves whelp in December-January in an underground den excavated by the alpha pair. Mean litter size was 4.8 pups. Juvenile wolves can disperse from their natal pack after the age of 8 months. Predation on blackbuck by wolves and jackals was found to have a regulatory role in the ecosystem. Majority of the wolf populations in India survive outside of protected areas and subsist primarily on livestock. In one day one hunting pair killed 4 sheeps in Basur kaaval . Human-wolf conflicts are of serious magnitude over much of the wolf’s range in India. Wolves are persecuted by smoking pups in their dens, sometimes by shooting and recently by poisoning. , but wolf populations were found to be resilient to diseases and normal human persecution (without the use of poison). Major threat to the continued survival of wolves in India is persecution by poison, and loss of denning habitat to intensive agriculture, development, and industry. This is also highly endangered and listed in schedule 1 of the wild life protection Act

Other mammals and birds found in the area

1. Slender loris-loris lyddekerianus malabaricus
2. Bonnet macaque-macaca radiata.
3. Blackbuck-antilope cervicapra.
4. Pig-sus scrofa.
5. sloth bear-melursus ursinus.
6. jackal-canis aureus.
7. Striped hyena-hyaena hyaena.
8. wolf-canis lupus.
9. Indian fox-vulpes bengalensis.
10. Common leopard-panthera pardus.
11. Jungle cat-felis chaus.
12. Leopard cat-prionailurus bengalensis.
13. Rusty spotted cat-prionailurus rubiginosus.
14. Small Indian civet-viverricula indica.
15. Grey mongoose-herpestes edwardsii.
16. Ruddy mongoose-herpestes smithii.
17. Stripe necked mongoose-herpestes vitticollis.
18. Indian pangolin-manis crassicaudata.
19. Indian hare-lepus nigricollis.
20. Grey musk shrew-suncus murinus.
21. Indian porcupine-hystrix indica.
22. Three striped squirrel-funambulus palmarum.
23. Indian gerbil-tatera indica.
24. Mice and rats
25. fruit bats-indian flying fox-pteropus giganteus.
26. Pipistrelles


27-1.Cattle egret-bubulcus ibis.
28-.Black ibis-pseudibis papillosa.
29-3.Oriental honey buzzard-pernis ptilorhynchus.
30-4.Black shouldered kite-elanus caeruleus.
31-5.Shikra-accipiter badius.
32-6.White eyed buzzard-butastur teesa.
33-7.Booted hawk eagle-hieraaetus pennatus.
34-8.Tawny eagle-aquila rapax.
35-9.Egyptian vulture-neophron percnopterus.
36-10.White rumped vulture-gyps bengalensis.
37-11.Pallid harrier-circus macrourus.
38-12.Montagu’s harrier-circus pygargus.
39-13.Marsh harrier-circus aeruginosus.
40-14.Short toed snake eagle-circaetus gallicus.
41-15.Common kestrel-falco tinnunculus.
42-16.Red spurfowl-galloperdix spadicea.
43-17.Grey francolin-francolinus pondicerianus.
44-18.Jungle bush quail-perdicula asiatica.
45-19.Rock bush quail-perdicula argoondah.
46-20.Blue breasted quail-coturnix chinensis.
47-21.Rain quail-coturnix coromandelica.
48-22.Small button quail-turnix sylvatica.
49-23.Yellow legged button quail-turnix tanki.
50-24.Barred button quail-turnix suscitator.
51-25.Indian peafowl-pavo cristatus.
52-26.Eurasian thick knee-burhinus oedicnemus.
53-27.Indian courser-cursorius coromandelicus.
54-28.Yellow wattled lapwing-vanellus malabaricus.
55-29.Chestnut bellied sandgrouse-pterocles exustus.
56-30.Painted sandgrouse-pterocles indicus.
57-31.Red collared dove-streptopelia tranquebarica.
58-32.Eurasian collared dove-streptopelia decaocto.
59-33.Laughing dove-streptopelia senegalensis.
60-34.Spotted dove-streptopelia chinensis.
61-35.Rock pigeon-columba livia.
62-36.Plum headed parakeet-psittacula cyanocephala.
63-37.Rose ringed parakeet-psittacula krameri.
64-38.Sirkeer cuckoo-phaenicophaeus leschenaultia.
65-39.Pied cuckoo-clamator jacobinus.
66-40.Asian koel-eudynamys scolopacea.
67-41.Greater coucal-centropus sinensis.
68-42.Indian nightjar-caprimulgus asiaticus.
69-43.Savanna nightjar-caprimulgus affinis.
70-44.Grey nightjar-caprimulgus indicus.
71-45.Barn owl-tyto alba.
72-46.Eurasian eagle owl-bubo bubo.
73-47.Collared scops owl-otus bakkamoena.
74-48.Spotted owlet-athene brama.
75-49.White rumped needletail-zoonavena sylvatica.
76-50.Asian palm swift-cypsiurus balasiensis.
77-51.House swift-apus affinis.
78-52.Indian roller-coracias benghalensis.
79-53.White throated kingfisher-halcyon smyrnensis.
80-54.Green bee eater-merops orientalis.
81-55.Chestnut headed bee eater-merops leschenaulti.
82-56.White cheeked barbet-megalaima viridis.
83-57.Common hoopoe-upupa epops.
84-58.Indian grey hornbill-ocyceros birostris.
85-59.Streak throated woodpecker-picus xanthopygaeus.
86-60.Lesser yellownape-picus chlorolophus.
87-61.Black rumped flameback-dinopium benghalense.
88-62.Eurasian wryneck-jynx torquilla.
89-63.Common iora-aegithina tiphia.
90-64.Ashy crowned sparrow lark-eremopterix grisea.
91-65.Rufous tailed lark-ammomanes phoenicurus.
92-66.Oriental skylark-alauda gulgula.
93-67.Malabar crested lark-galerida malabarica.
94-68.Dusky crag martin-hirundo concolor.
95-69.Barn swallow-hirundo rustica.
96-70.Wire tailed swallow-hirundo smithii.
97-71.Red rumped swallow-hirundo daurica.
98-72.Black drongo-dicrurus macrocercus.
99-73.Whitebellied drongo-dicrurus caerulescens.
100-74.Southern grey shrike-lanius meridionalis.
101-75.Long tailed shrike-lanius schach.
102-76.Bay backed shrike-lanius vittatus.
103-77.Brown shrike-lanius cristatus.
104-78Chestnut tailed starling-sturnus malabaricus.
105-79.Brahminy starling-sturnus pagodarum.
106-80.Rosy starling-sturnus roseus.
107-81.Common myna-acridotheres tristis.
108-82.Jungle myna-acridotheres fuscus.
109-83.Rufous treepie-dendrocitta vagabunda.
110-84.House crow-corvus splendens.
111-85.Large billed crow-corvus macrorhynchos.
112-86.Black headed cuckoo shrike-coracina melanoptera.
113-87.Small minivet-pricrocotus cinnamomeus.
114-88.Red vented bulbul-pycnonotus cafer.
115-89.Red whiskered bulbul-pycnonotus jocosus.
116-90.White browed bulbul-pycnonotus luteolus.
117-91.Yellow eyed babbler-chrysomma sinense.
118-92.Jungle babler-turdoides striatus.
119-93.Large grey babbler-turdoides malcolmi.
120-94.White browed fantail-rhipidura aureola.
121-95.Ashy prinia-prinia socialis.
122-96.Common tailorbird-orthotomus sutorius.
123-97.Oriental magpie robin-copsychus saularis.
124-98.Indian robin-saxicoloides fulicata.
125-99.Common stonechat-saxicola torquata.
126-100.Pied bushchat-saxicola caprata.
127-101.Great tit-parus major.
128-102.Black lored tit-parus xanthogenys.
129-103.Velvet fronted nuthatch-sitta frontalis.
130-104.Paddyfield pipit-anthus rufulus.
131-105.White browed wagtail-motacilla maderaspatensis.
132-106.Grey wagtail-motacilla cinerea.
133-107.White wagtail-motacilla alba.
134-108.Yellow wagtail-motacilla flava.
135-109.Citrine wagtail-motacilla citreola.
136-110.Oriental white eye-zosterops palpebrosus.
137-111.Purple rumped sunbird-nectarinia zeylonica.
138-112.Loten’s sunbird-nectarinia lotenia.
139-113.Purple sunbird-nectarinia asiatica.
140-114.Thick billed flowerpecker-dicaeum agile.
141-115.Red avadavat-amandava amandava.
142-116.Indian silverbill-lonchura malabarica.
143-117.White rumped munia-lonchura striata.
144-118.Scaly breasted munia-lonchura punctulata.
145-119.House sparrow-passer domesticus.
146-120.Baya weaver-ploceus philippinus.
147-121.Common rosefinch-carpodacus erythrinus
148-122.Black headed bunting-emberiza melanocephala.

Conservation problems and strategies

The maidan areas in Karnataka supports s only scrub and degraded forests, owing to its generally dry climatic conditions , more and more areas of this kind are brought under plough resulting in shrinkage of remaining degraded forests which can not support wild life ( Maadav Gadgil) . Maintenance of the integrity of these habitats is must if we want to conserve the biodiversity of the area.

Small and fragmented habitat in long run will not be sustainable; hence we should aim at conserving large chunks of scrub lands like Baasur, in Deccan plateau to restock the wild life of this ecosystem. As per the study the rare and endangered Indian wolf has disappeared in great deal in southern plains, as there are only about 550 animals in entire state (H.N. Kumara) which is an estimated figure, the number could be still lesser. As there are many wolves in this area (4 wolves in one sighting), this patch of forests needs attention and proper protection to build up these numbers. Black bucks are the natural prey of these wolves, as there is viable population of black bucks in this grass lands they can definitely breed further and sustain if proper protection is ensured. Hence this calls for declaring this area as conservation reserve

The existence of grass land fauna like wolf, black bucks, fox etc depends on conservation of extensive grass lands like Basur kaaval where human interference is negligible , artificial planting around the kaaval in one way checked the further encroachment but reckless planting of fast growing sps in this ecosystem has got its detrimental effects , Intensive fast growing plantations in grass lands poses threat to the existence of black bucks and other ground birds as they are adapted to the open country such conversion leads to replacing black bucks and wolf with leopard and spotted deer ( Neginhal)
these areas needs to be closed for grazing of cattle’s other than the Amruth mahal cattle and
Providing some effective legal status like conservation reserve, etc

Nomadic herd’s men like kurubas of the plains, camp in these areas and some time hunt the black bucks, and even poach the much endangered Indian wolf some time identify the dens of wolf to smoke the pups to death , these camps and sheep grazing should be controlled.

Some of the tribes living around the area are indulging in trapping the ground dwelling gerbils and black naped hares which are the main prey base for the lesser predators like jackals ,Indian fox etc. Theses should be controlled

These areas are supporting very sparse scrub vegetation. hacking by villagers for their firewood needs is depleting this biomass in a very rapid way these things also be checked properly by providing sustainable alternatives like LPG connection, bio gas connection
activity like proposed Kedigere –Arehalli road that cut across this grass lands at middle and fragment and brings in more problems to this already threatened fragile ecosystem
augmentation of depleting root stock by effective area closure by way of rotation grazing of the amruth mahal cattle , may be like practice of grass exclosures by erecting chain link mesh fence in growing season to relieve pressure of grazing in one season, would help this area to recuperate and results in rich growth of heterogeneous grass species .
during 1956 , a total of 92801 acres of land out of 165000 acres of kaaval lands in the entire state were taken back for distributing them to landless agriculturist and other developmental works, in the process this kaaval has also lost 360 acres for the agriculture usage this trend of land conversion is still going on in Govt level which needs to be stopped forthwith , as theses are unique ecosystems supporting an array of endangered flora and fauna

some of the most obnoxious weeds that are infesting the grass land are Dodania viscosa, cassia tora, lantana camara and recently Parthenium they will hamper the habitat if not controlled
there are 3 water holes at present , which are being used by all stake holders of the kaaval , that is amruth mahal cattles,wild animals, village domestic cattle this will contaminate the water points and brings the risk of disease transmission to the wild animals there should be exclusive water points for the cattle
Acacia chundra is the dominant sps of this grass lands which has got thorny spines, the farmers of the surrounding villages are hacking these trees for their fencing needs. This along with the illegal browsing of leguminous trees of the kaaval by the nomadic tribes are depleting the already scarce biomass of this area which results in lack of much needed hide to the animals of this place this has to be strictly controlled .