There are black buck heads almost as fine on many other ranches in Texas, including Charley Schreiner Ill's Y.O. Ranch near Kerrville and Frank Huntress, Guajolote Ranch near Boerne. Last year, in order to round out an impressive collection of game that included almost every major species in Europe and Asia, Nichol�s Franco, a nephew of Spain's Generalissimo, flew to Texas to try for a black buck at the Y.O. Ranch. According to Franco, the head he took was considerably better than any he had seen in India before or after the season was closed.
The idea of reestablishing the black buck in at least part of its original range was a mutual effort involving cooperation—and, perhaps even more important, imagination—on three continents. The pilot work was done by Val Lehmann of King Ranch and Wilbur Matthews of San Antonio, with help from the San Antonio Zoological Society. Their program called for 12 antelope, which were recruited from various ranches with thriving black buck populations. Harry Jersig donated five females and one male from his Auerhahn Ranch in Boerne. Bruno Schulz contributed two males and two females from his Take-It-Easy Ranch in Kerrville. Two additional females came off the ranch of Hal Bradford in Rocksprings.
The San Antonio Zoo, third largest in the nation, agreed to hold the animals in a specially built enclosure while they underwent an observation period and various preshipment tests. King Ranch provided individual custom-built crates for the journey, and a group of cowboys rounded up the skittish animals and put them into the crates. For one afternoon last week this phase of Operation Black Buck took on all the appearances of a full-scale rodeo, with antelope leaping and kicking and cowboys twirling lassos in every direction. In the process two of the females dropped calves and so were themselves dropped from the project.
To cover the cost of the flight of the remaining 10 black bucks from Texas to Pakistan, Game Coin International paid the $1,900 tab. On the other side of the ocean, the World Wildlife Fund handled arrangements for transhipment on the final leg from Frankfurt to Lahore. When the animals finally arrived early last week in Lahore—in excellent condition—their treatment was strictly VIP. General Agha Mohammed Yahya Khan, President of Pakistan, was expected to look at the animals and direct their transfer to the Lal Suhanra Wildlife Sanctuary near Bahawalpur.
This 52,900-acre sanctuary was established in 1968 at the specific urging of Prince Bernhard of The Netherlands, president of the World Wildlife Fund, International and long an impassioned champion of conservation. For the present, the black bucks will live in a large enclosure under the supervision of Pakistani sanctuary officials. It is hoped that in the years to come these animals will become the nucleus of a breeding herd that will eventually repopulate the sanctuary and then the country. The enclosure, the food and the water facilities provided for them at Bahawalpur represent a large gift from the people of Holland who, like their prince, have made the cause of the world's wildlife their own.
It will be years before the outcome of Operation Black Buck can be determined, but even at this early date it is clear that the project represents a giant step in progressive game management. For the U.S., it may prove to be the first step toward making this country a modern Noah's Ark for the world's vanishing wildlife.