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The stray dogs’ menace at IIT-Madras: Deers in campus dying due to stray dogs fed by ?dog-lovers?

The deers inside the lush green forests of IIT-Madras faces an existential threat. Over the years, several deers have been found dead in the IIT Madras campus. In 2017, the Tamil Nadu Forest Department in response to a petition filed at the National Green Tribunal mentioned that 50 deers and blackbucks were killed by speeding vehicles, 50 died eating plastics and a whopping 291 were hunted down by stray dogs. While concerns have been raised in the past about the growing population of stray dogs and the threat they pose to the wildlife in the forest, very little heed has been paid to curb the menace.

The IIT-Madras campus is situated inside the Guindy Reserve Forest area which is home to spotted deer, blackbucks, macaques, and several other species. As per the ‘Rapid Assessment of Biodiversity’ study, there are around 432 species of flora and fauna that includes 12 species of mammals, 51 species of birds.

However, there has been a huge increase in the stray dog population inside the campus, thanks to the ‘dog lovers’ within the campus, which is now threatening these wildlife species. It is said that currently the IIT-Madras campus has 170 stray dogs.

These dogs, like their wolf cousins, form packs at night and attack the spotted deers and blackbucks. With their strong sense of smell, they hunt down pregnant deer and fawns thereby leading to a drastic decrease in their count.

Here is a list of some of the brutal attacks by stray dogs and deers and blackbucks. (Warning: Link contains disturbing images of dead animals).

In December 2018, stray dogs killed 2 deers within two weeks, of which one of them was a blackbuck, an endangered species. In a report by DT Next, a lab technician working at the institution was quoted saying that the number of deers succumbing to attacks by stray dogs have been on the rise and alleged that even if the IIT-Madras management tried to take protective measures, ‘dog-loving groups’ come and take counter measures.

The Tamil Nadu government while submitting its counter affidavit to a petition filed at the National Green Tribunal (NGT) stated that the IIT-Madras administration and the Greater Chennai Corporation should take action to prevent stray dogs from entering the premises and that the attack on the blackbucks from stray dogs needs to be prevented.

The Forest Department submitted to the NGT that generation of solid wastes and presence of stray dogs affected the free ranging wildlife in the campus. It stated that improper disposal of garbage in the campus attracted large number of stray dogs posing a great threat to the blackbucks and deers making them live in perpetual fear. It went on to add that all existing dog population must be removed and households keeping pet dogs should be brought under regulatory provisions.

These submissions can be found in the NGT order released in September 2020.

However, any attempt to remove the stray dogs and bring in regulations to protect the endangered species is being obstructed by ‘dog-lover’ groups in the campus. Contradicting the recommendations made by the Tamil Nadu government and the Forest Department, which was also reiterated by the NGT, the Chennai Wildlife Warden CH Padma who is also part of the committee constituted by the NGT has increased the number of feeding centres inside the campus for stray dogs after pressure from these groups. Earlier, the Estate Manager of IIT-Madras restricted the stray dog feeding centres to five. This has now been increased to 14 by the Chennai Wildlife Warden along with permitting feeding of home-cooked food.

To curb this move that could further inflict damage on the campus wildlife, the IIT-Madras administration has decided to impose fines and take penal action against those feeding stray dogs beyond the designated area and time. Apart from imposing fines, the administration has also decided to take penal action like cancellation of dog feeder cards and cancelling of hostel/quarters accommodation. This is now being opposed by the ‘dog-loving’ groups saying that the administration’s move is tantamount to ‘harassment’ and even ‘abetment to suicide’.

The IIT-Madras administration is also being pressurized by the Animal Welfare Board of India which recently issued a notice for ‘illegal catching and relocation/impounding of stray dogs’ in the campus stating that relocation of stray dogs outside the campus is a violation of Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules 2001. The notice was issued based on a complaint made by one Tryphena Dudley, an alumnus of the college who had alleged that dogs are being impounded in a concealed area in the campus and that those dogs which are taken for sterilisation are not being returned back.

IIT-Madras had engaged Karunya Trust for neutering the dogs and relocating some of them to places outside the campus.

In its notice, the AWBI asked IIT-Madras to ensure that no one is prevented from feeding or caring for dogs and cats and also ensuring that they are not relocated.

Speaking to The Commune, S Muralidharan, a Chennai based animal activist said that it is outrageous that a reserve forest is being used as a feeding and breeding ground for stray dogs. “We all love dogs and there are a plenty of them on the streets. But to bring them into a reserve forest, feed them mindlessly which later goes on to kill native wildlife in the forest is just ridiculous”. Mr. Muralidharan said.

He said that the argument of dogs being territorial animals and that their relocation would cause them harm is just humbug as most of the dogs are relocated from elsewhere into the campus by ‘dog-lovers’.

He also called the latest move of the Chennai Wildlife Warden to increase feeding centres for stray dogs inside the campus as ‘appalling’.

“Earlier they tried to transport some of the deers of the IIT-Madras to a forest in Tamil Nadu. Almost all of them died midway of cardiac arrest. Deers are very sensitive animals.”, he said.

He said that AWBI under the influence of BJP MP Maneka Gandhi is working hand-in-glove with the ‘dog-lover’ groups and organizations like Blue Cross to fill Indian streets full of diseased stray dogs so that they can invite multinational pharma companies for selling rabies vaccines and other medicines.

“If anyone wants to love and care for stray dogs, let them adopt one and raise it safely in their homes. A reserve forest is no place for stray dogs”, Mr. Murali said.

Tamil Nadu Congress Committee spokesperson Mr. Americai V Narayanan has called for the implementation of the NGT order and relocation of the stray dogs from IIT-Madras to save the deers.