New Delhi: Bollywood superstar Salman Khan was on Thursday convicted and sentenced to five years in jail and fined Rs 10,000, in the 1998 blackbuck poaching case. Four other accused stars -- SonaliBendre, Saif Ali Khan, Tabu and Neelam – have been acquitted of all charges. Salman was accused in the case which took place while he was shooting for the film "Hum SaathSaath Hain" in Rajasthan in 1998.
The case gained prominence as it involved the Bollywood superstar and an endangered species. Blackbucks are rare antelopes that are indigenous to the plains of India. They are also found in Nepal and Pakistan as well. As per Encyclopaedia Britannica, the blackbuck is an antelope of the same tribe (Antilopini) that includes gazelles, the springbok, and the gerenuk. However, a blackbuck’s horns is what differentiates it from the rest of the tribe. The adult male’s horns are spirally twisted, V-shaped, and covered with pronounced ridges nearly to the tips.
Male blackbucks weigh around 34–45 kg and their height is normally between29–35 inches at the shoulder. Females, on the other hand, weigh between 31–39 kg and stand at a similar height. The only difference between females and males are the horns.
The concern around blackbucks is that they are endangered species. In India, hunting of blackbuck is prohibited under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. Endangered animals or species are those whose numbers have dwindled to critically low level and whose habitats are so less or damaged that they are in imminent danger of extinction.
At one point of time, blackbucks could be found in abundance over plains across the Indian subcontinent. However, their population has dwindled drastically with the surge in human numbers. The blackbuck population was believed to be around 80,000 in 1947, but it came down drastically to 8,000 in 1964. However, it has recovered since then to about 25,000 in protected areas. Now, the species can be seen in a few protected areas like the Guindy National park and IIT-Madras campus, Point Calimere and Vellanadu Sanctuaries in Tamil Nadu, and Rollapadu (Andhra Pradesh), Velavadar (Gujarat) and Chilka (Orissa) other than few parts of Rajasthan and Haryana.