chital_Spotted Deer_Wildlife_jungle_safari

To go to sleep I count antlers, not sheep.

-Anonymous

Such is the grace of this common herbivore of the Indian wilderness, Popularly known as Chital, the spotted deer is India’s most common and most visible deer.

About the Species

The Chital is even toed ungulate, which means that they have even toed hooves. Ruminants by nature, they survive by grazing or browsing. Gifted with a reddish brown coat that varies with terrain, the richness of coat varies according to geographic terrain. Deer of the Terai region are the largest with largest antlers. Both sexes display spots, a recognizable characteristic. The male have antlers which are typically three-tined, with one brow tine and two branch tines. Sexes can be differentiated by size and the presence of antlers.

Origins and habitat

Found originally throughout India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh (Sunderbans mangroves)  and Sri Lanka, Chital were introduced to the Andamans during 1925-1930. Also introduced to other locations such as Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Brazil, CroatiaMoldova, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Ukraine, Uruguay and the USA. In India they demonstrate a high density, generally three to fifty animals per square km. The species enjoys an IUCN status of “Least Threat”, however, factors such as poaching, hunting and reduction in carrying capacity of land due to direct competition with livestock has rendered reduction in populations since the early part of the century.

An inhabitant of grassland – deciduous forests, both moist and dry, the Chital thrives along the fringes of forests. Short grasslands are the best since they provide little cover to its predators such as the tiger, thereby increasing its survival chances many fold. Only in Andaman, re-habitation has it been seen to survive in evergreen forests, their natural preference seems to be dry forest which provide good grazing and foraging opportunities.

A unique feature is that the Chital easily habituates to human presence, hence herds are commonly seen congregating near forest camps or villages to spend the night. A possible reason for this is the greater safety from predators and poachers that avoid these areas.

Behaviour

Herbivores to the hilt, these are often seen grazing in open grasslands in herds of 10 to more than 100 individuals. Though not territory defenders, they seem to maintain a home range and males encroaching on territory put on a display of strength by horning, pawing and marking, possibly followed by a fight.Stags are often found standing on hind legs to reach leaves and also to display their strength through markings. Though typically silent grazers, their primary communication means is a “chuckling” sound while walking.

Chital breed throughout the year, with a gestation period of 210-225 days, they give birth to one or two fawns. An indication of the sexual maturity of males is the texture of antlers – Males sporting hard antlers are dominant over those in velvet or those without antlers.

Interesting Facts

  • Chitalexhibit a unique association with Langurs. They are often seen grazing near trees inhabited by Langurs since Langurs are able to warn them about approaching predators. Moreover, they exhibit a shared feeding ritual where Langurs drop fresh fruits and leaves for Chital to feed on. So much so for sharing and caring!
  • Males are often seen licking their shed antlers- this serves as a very good source of calcium for them, enhancing their strength and providing much needed minerals.
  • When grazing, chital do a “courtesy posture” when they pass each other, a sign that they are highly social animals.
SambarDeer_Wildlife_jungle_safari

To go to sleep I count antlers, not sheep.

-Anonymous

The largest deer native to the Indian subcontinent, the Sambar is known for its fine antlers that sometimes may reach up to 120 cms in height. The species is listed as status ‘Vulnerable’ thanks to

About the Species

An even toed ungulate, the sambar is identified by its size, long tail and color of the coat which ranges from dark brown to greyish. The coat is generally shaggy and coarse. The older the stags, the darker their coats becomes, older once almost tending towards black. Physiologically, Sambhar’s have very well developed facial glands to attract the females by secreting scent and leaving the marks on the tree trunks. As in many other deer, only the male sambar deer has antlers. These antlers have three points, or tines, and can typically grow up to 120 centimetres in length in adults. The Sambar is distinguished from the Swamp Deer or Barasingha in having a darker coat and the absence of white hair inside the ears. The Sambar appears ‘Ruffian’ in appearance owing to its well developed throat mane, a characteristic feature of both males and females.

Sub Species Range Status
R. u. boninensis Bonin Islands Extinct
R. u. brookei Borneo Threatened
R. u. cambojensis Mainland Southeast Asia  Not available
R. u. unicolor India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka Vulnerable
R. u. dejeani Southern and southwestern China   Not available
R. u. equina Sumatra   Not available
R. u. hainana Hainan, China   Not available
R. u. swinhoii Taiwan   Not available

 

Origins and habitat

Native to India, the Sambar extends to Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, South China, Taiwan and South East Asia such as Myanmar, Thailand, Lao PDR, Cambodia, Viet Nam, West Malaysia. The species has been introduced to Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

In India, they are found throughout except the High Himalayas, deserts of Kutch and the coastlines. While it is flexible in its habitat requirements, it generally prefers denser forested landscapes with enough water since they feed on the water weeds in lowlying lakes and ponds.

Behaviour

The Sambar deer feeds on a wide variety of vegetation, including grasses, foliage, browse, fruit, and water plants, depending on the local habitat. Nocturnal or crepuscular (active during dawn and dusk) by nature, males live alone, whereas females may be seen in small herds. They often gather near waters and are seen feeding on the water weeds, a favourite food. This is also an enhanced defence mechanism since Sambars are excellent swimmers and prefer attacking predators while in water. Capable of bipedalism, they are often seen reaching out to higher branches in search of untapped leaves. Communication happens by scent marking and foot stamping. Though generally silent mammals, the Sambar gives out a distinct high pitched “ponk” alarm call to signal danger. The shedding of antlers takes place mainly in March end till mid-April.

Reproduction happens year-round, though it peaks during November-December. During this time, males are often seen sparring by locking antlers and pushing each other.A unique behaviour observed is that they also sometimes stand on their hind legs and clash downward into each other. The gestation period is about eight months, generally one calf is born at a time.

Interesting Facts

  • The short “Ponk” alarm call of the sambar deer is considered to be almost 100% accurate, indicating the presence of a major predator in near presence. Hence sambar calls are used as a sure-shot tracking mechanism for locating tigers.
  • Considered to be the favourite food of the tiger, the Sambar is often hunted down by large predators for its immense size, leading to a sumptuous meal!
  • Stags are highly aggressive during “rut” of breeding season. When marking territory during rut, stags have been known to spray urine in their faceas an indication for other stags to stay away!
Hog Deer_Wildlife_jungle_safari

To go to sleep I count antlers, not sheep.

-Anonymous

A medium sized deer, this beautiful deer of the grasslands has been categorized under “Endangered” owing to past reduction of 50% or greater in three generations. Major declines have happened in South East Asia and the Terai landscapes.

About the Species

An even toed ungulate, the Hog Deer is stouter and has shorter legs than the Chital and is larger and more rounded than the Barking Deer, giving it a pig like appearance. They are distinguishable by their speckled appearance due to white-tipped hairs interspersing the olive-brown coat. These may occur along the dorsal line or throughout. Like in most deer, males only possess antlers; these are typically three tined-brow tine with solid main beam terminating in inner and outer top tines

Sub Species   Range Status
A. p. porcinus Indian Hog Deer From Pakistan to Myanmar Endangered
A. p. annamiticus Indochinese Hog Deer Cambodia, and Vietnam. Extirpated from Thailand Endangered

 

Origins and habitat

Hog Deer historically occurred from Pakistan, throughout northern and northeastern India, including the Himalayan foothill zone and some parts of Southern China. Today they are found through the plains of the river Indus, the Ganga and the Brahmaputra in protected areas, from Punjab in the west to Arunachal Pradesh in the east

An indigenous inhabitant of lowlands, wetlands and tall grasslands interspersed with forest, swamp or riverine areas. It appears to reach highest density in floodplain grasslands. Hog Deer moves into higher-lying grasslands in response to monsoon flooding in India, Myanmar and presumably throughout their range

Behaviour

Hogdeer tend to be crepuscular, with significant day-time activity and some at night. Socially reclusive, they are not innate herd-dwellers, preferring to scout grasslands for grass, their main food source, as per their individual preferences. Social groups exist in the form of females and their fawns. Males are territorial and mark their home ranges by glandular secretions. Communication such as warning signals happens in the form of whistling vocalisation or a “barking” warning call. Escape from danger is by running away, “crashing”, head first, through dense brush.

The Hog Deer ruts during September – October. Typical rutting behaviour is a display of pawing the ground. Unlike many other deer species, hog deer do not have a rutting call. Gestation period is 220-230 days after which generally one fawn is born.

Interesting Facts

  • The Hog deer gets its name from the hog-like manner in which it runs through the forests with its head hung low so that it can duck under obstacles instead of leaping over them like most other deer.
  • Two similar looking relatives of the Hog Deer exist – the Bawean Deer (Indonesia) and Calamian Deer (Philippines). These may have originally been part of a wider base of the Hog deer species itself.
Barking Deer_Wildlife_jungle_safari

To go to sleep I count antlers, not sheep.

-Anonymous

Also called the Indian Muntjac, the Barking Deer is a much smaller deer than the Chital or even the Hog Deer. Do not be surprised if you hear the barking of a dog during your safari, look not for furry pups, but for this small ungulate full of substance for its size, for the Barking Deer is named after it’s distinct “Barking Call”. With an IUCN status of “Least Concern” this is the more common of the two Indian ruminants in the deer category.

About the Species

The Barking Deer or the Indian Muntjac has a glossy, reddish brown coat and greyish or white underparts. Males have long upper canines, a unique physiological feature, thought these are not always visible. The face prominently displays frontal ridges and two slits indicating a frontal gland. Males grow antlers with a single tine, these are the brow tines which are slightly curved inwards.

The genus Muntiacus has 12 recognized species:

Sub Species   Range Status
Muntiacusmuntjak Indian muntjac South Asia – Bangladesh, South China, North East India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malay Peninsula and Sumatra, Java, Borneo. This species is most densely located in Southeast Asia Least Concern
M. reevesi Reeves Muntjac or Chinese Muntjac Native to Southeastern China and in Taiwan.  They have also been introduced in Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom Least Concern
M. crinifrons Hairy fronted Muntjac or Black Muntjac South Eastern China Endangered, possibly to few thosuands.
M. feae Feas Muntjac Native to China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam Data deficient
M. atherodes Bornean Yellow Muntjac moist forests of Borneo Least concern.
M. rooseveltorum Roosevelts Muntjac Rediscovered in Laos and Vietnam Data deficient

 

M. gongshanensis Gongshan Muntjac Native to the Gongshan mountains in northwestern Yunnan, southeast Tibet and northern Myanmar. Recently discovered in Arunachal Pradesh. Data deficient

 

M. vuquangensis Giant Muntjac ( Largest sub species) Laos (Nakai-Nam Theun National Protected Area) and Cambodia Data deficient
M. truongsonensis Truong Son muntjac (Smallest sub species)  Truong Son mountain range in Vietnam Endangered
M. putaoensis Leaf Muntjac Native to Myanmar, In 2002, it was reported also to exist in Namdapha Tiger Reserve, also in eastern Arunachal Pradesh, India Data deficient
M. montanus Sumatran Muntjac KerinciSeblat National Park, Sumatra, Indonesia Data deficient
M. puhoatensis Pu Hoat Muntjac Pu Hoat region in Vietnam Endangered

 

Recently the two muntjac species from the above list have been found in Arunachal Pradesh. Both have not been sighted in the wild, but skulls and jaws were recovered. This leads us to believe that two species existed – the Leaf Muntjacand the Gongshan/Black  Muntjac.

Origins and habitat

Native to the Indian sub-continent, Barking Deer are found throughout most of peninsular India and the Terai, north-eastern India and the lower Himalayas.

The Barking deer are mostly seen inhabiting dense forests of India, preferring hilly and moist areas. dense forests.Occurrences have been reported in in plantations of coffee, rubber, sugarcane, cassava, coconut, and teak as well. Frequent sightings have been reported at salt lick locations.

Behaviour

The barking Deer is not overtly territorial, though it displays presence of home ranges upto 6-7 square kilometres that the deer scent marks regularly. In fact it is a very shy animal preferring to live in isolation or to the max in pairs or rarely in very small groups. Their diet comprises of mostly fruits, buds, tender leaves, flowers, herbs and young grass. Major activity takes place during the early mornings and evenings and afternoons are used for resting. Being the creatures of open, Hog deer have very acute sense of sight, smell and sound.

The rutting mainly takes place during winters and young ones are born on the onset of rains.

Interesting Facts

  • The Barking Deer holds the record of being the mammal with the lowest recorded chromosome number, the male has a diploid number of seven and female has six chromosomes.
  • Unlike other deer,an adult male Muntjac or the Barking Deer has very well developed canines which can be used as a weapon of self defense.
  • They are prone to easy alarm calls, hence the alarm call of a Muntjac deer is taken seriously only when it is repeated endlessly.
Barasingha_Wildlife_jungle_safari_Bandhavgarh Nationa lPark

To go to sleep I count antlers, not sheep.

-Anonymous

Recognized as a sub species of the nominate species of the swamp deer of the Sub Himalayan Terai, the hard ground Barasingha is a food specialist with a narrow niche, and an exclusively graminivorous i.e. totally dependent on grasses and grassland. It derives its name from a unique feature of more than three-tined antlers. Majestic “twelve-tined” antlers are not uncommon to be seen in full grown adults.

About the Species

Known for its majestic 5-6 tined antlers, the Barasingha is reddish brown in winter and greyish brown in summers. Anatomy is characterized by a short tail, a dark dorsal line and rounded ears. The antlers are true showstoppers, branched dichotomously in the upper third of the beam and this branching continues till 10-12 tines develop. Full antler development takes up to three years. Females are without antlers, considerably larger than spotted deer does. They can be distinguished from spotted deer does by the color and pattern of the coat and presence of white instead of pink hair in the ears.

Sub Species   Features Status
R.d.duvaucelii Wetland Barasingha Larger with splayed hooves Vulnerable (2013)
R.d.BranderiPocock Hard Ground Barasingha Larger antlers, smaller form than the Wetland Vulnerable (2013)
R.d.ranjitsinhii Eastern Barasingha Smallest in both size and antlers Vulnerable (2013)

 

Origins and habitat

Much has been written about the preponderance of the hard ground Barasingha in the classic book “The Highlands of Central India” by the famed British naturalist Captain Forsyth. The deer was distributed far and wide in many districts of the Indo-Gangetic Plains, southern Himalayas, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Bihar and Orissa in India.Barasingha also occurred west to the River Indus, into Pakistan. Progressive decline of grassland habitats lead to rapid decline in Barasingha populations, by 1938, the census calculated numbers to be reduced to 3023. Till 1970 a mere 66 animals were left in the wild, restricted to the protected havens of the Kanha National Park, as is the current status after focussed conservation efforts by the national park.

For Wetland and Eastern Barasingha, the habitat is restricted to flooded tall grasslands and tall alluvial grasslands interspersed with swamps. The hard ground Barasingha, particularly is found only in Central India, where dry grasslands border Sal forests (Kanha National Park).

Behaviour

The hard ground Barasingha is a food specialist, feeding on select few grasses. No significant long distance migratory tendencies have been observed, putting the deer at risk. In fact, the species has relatively underdeveloped defence instincts, making them vulnerable to becoming prey, as compared to other deer. They are creatures of habit, tending to use the same tracks for long time and their vigilance is low; often entire herds are seen grazing with their heads down with no look-out mechanism/ role in place. The Hard Ground Barasingha is primarily a dry grazer, whereas the Wetland Barasingha and Eastern Barasingha is found to feed on water plants.

Highly social, they congregate during the dry season in search of water and food. Yet, males are territorial in nature, defending their home ranges.

Rutting starts for Wetland Barasingha in August–September, for the Hard Ground Barasingha in early December and for the Eastern species in April. Accordingly, antler shedding begins by mid-January, late April and early October respectively for the three races; fawning peaks in July–August, September-October, and March-April respectively for the three races. Gestation lasts 240 – 250 days and a single calf is born.

Efforts for conservation

A host of initiatives by the Kanha National Park has resulted in Barasingha number now increasing from a mere 66 to 1666 (2016). Habitat improvement through maintenance of tall grass plantations and grass enclosures and swamp creation. Creation of wallows i.e. muddy sites, which play an important role in courtship and mating is another step towards proliferating the species.

Interesting Facts

  • Rudyard Kipling in The Second Jungle Book featured a Barasingha in the chapter “The Miracle of Purun Bhagat” by the name of “barasingh”. It befriends Purun Bhagat because the man rubs the stag’s velvet off his horns. Purun Bhagat then provides shelter to barasingh with his warm fire, along with a few fresh chestnuts every now and then. Later as pay, the stag warns Purun Bhagat and his town about how the mountain on which they live is crumbling.
  • Barasingha is the state animal of Madhya Pradesh
Chausingha_Wildlife_jungle_safari

The four-horned antelope or Chousingha, is a species of small antelope, the only member of the family Bovidaewhose male has four horns. It is the smallest antelope in Asia. The species is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN due to habitat loss

About the Species

The species is the smallest of Asian bovids, standing 22 to 25 inches tall and weighing 17 to 22 kg. Similar in appearance to the Indian Gazelle or Chinkara (especially the females), the Chousingha is distinguishable by a cinnamon brown body and lighter underparts and a dark stripe running down each of its legs.The male has four horns—two slightly curved rear horns measuring 8–10 cm long and two straight front hornsmeasuring 2.5–4 cm long. Sometimes these front horns are reduced to knobs and can be spotted only through binoculars. Females are hornless. Horns develop only around one year of age and separating sexes in field observation in sub-adults is difficult. The hind hooves have a scent mark gland. Three sub-species of the Chousingha are recognized

Origins and habitat

Native to India, they extend roughly sympatrically with the Nilgai, from the sub-Himalayan Terai through Central and Peninsular India, to north of the Nilgiris. They also enjoy a presence in Gir National Park in Gujarat. They are also known to thrive in Nepal in the wild.

Adaptable to various habitats, their natural preference seems to be open,dry, deciduous forests in hilly terrain. Tall grass is also frequented for their good cover from predators. Often found near water bodies, due to their daily need for fresh water, the Chousingha uses the same ‘latrine sites’ for defecation for days together.

Behaviour

Socially shy and elusive, the Chousingha is a solitary animal and may be sometime spotted in small group of upto four individuals. They are sedentary and males are known to actively defend their home ranges. Communication happens through alarm calls sounding like a husky “phronk” and other minor vocalizations. Territorial communications also happen through scent markings and droppings. Herbivorous by food habits, these antelopes prefer feeding on soft leaves, fruits, and flowers. The animal prefers spending time away from human habitation.

Breeding season is from May to July beginning with an intense courtship ritual of the male and female kneeling and pushing at each other by intertwining necks. This is followed by a characteristic drill like strutting by the male, followed by copulation. Gestation is about eight months and generally one to max three calves.

Interesting Facts

  • Despite close resemblance to the Chinkara or Indian Gazelle, the Chousingha is most closely related to the Nilgai or Blue Bull.
  • It is the only species currently classified in the genus Both genetic and morphological studies, however, confirm it as one of only two living members of the tribe Boselaphini. This group originated at least 8.9 million years ago, in much the same area where the four-horned antelope lives today, and may represent the most “primitive” of all living bovids, having changed the least since the origins of the family
  • They use “latrine sites” where they regularly come to defecate in groups, similar to Nilgais. This may be indicative of a form of communication unique to antelopes.
Chinkara_Wildlife_jungle_safari

The Indian Gazelle or Chinkara, is arguably the most graceful antelopeowing to its tawny coat, white and rufous striations on the face and slender annulated horns. The IUCN has granted it a status of Least Concern owing to wide distribution and large numbers.

About the Species

Weighing about 23 kilos and reaching a height of about 65 cms, the Chinkara or Indian Gazelle is the epitome of elegance, thanks to its intricately annulated horns. Both male and females grow horns, through those of males are hard and thinner with distinct rings, while horns of females are soft and half the size of those of males. They are recognized by relatively straight horns, curved only at the tips. Another feature for recognizing this antelope is the presence of dark and white rufous streaks on the face, a dark nose- bridge and white fleck on the forehead. Three prominent species have been marked depending on their habitat preference.

Sub Species Common Name Range Status
G.b. christii Desert Chinkara Desert habitats Least Concern
G.b. Salinarum Salt Range Chinkara Salt ranges Least Concern
G.b. Benettii Deccan Chinkara Deccan plateau

 

Origins and habitat

Originating from a wide geographical base, the Chinkara’srange covers much of western and central India, extending through Pakistan, south-western Afghanistan into north-central Iran. The Thar Desert of western India remains a stronghold, which is a unique habitat for an antelope to flourish. Some presence continues to be seen in Pakistan and Iran, though drastically reduced owing to hunting.

Due to its ability to go for long hours without water, the Chinkara has perfectly adapted to the arid areas of desert landscapes including sand deserts, flat plains and hills, dry scrub and light forests. Distribution ranges across areas of western and central India from Punjab to Rajasthan, eastwards towards the Gangetic valley and southwards towards the Deccan plateau.

Behaviour

The Chinkara is a facultative drinker, a feature unique to the species. The animal derives much of its water requirement from forage, plants, dew and moist soil that it ingests along with its forage. Primarily a forger,diet include all types of vegetation and typically feeds on grass, leaves and wild fruits. Chinkaras are shy and avoid human habitation.

Mating happens throughout the year, though there exist two birth peaks the major one in April and the minor one in autumn. Gestation period lasts for 5 -6 months. Females give birth to one or two young ones.

Interesting Facts

  • In parts of western India Chinkara are protected by villagers for religious reasons.
  • Outside protected regions, the Chinkaras have been observed to be under threat due to attacks by stray dogs who have turned pack hunters. Instances have been observed where the dogs formed groups of five to seven and chased the gazelles in the countryside, then surrounding the animal and attacking it to death.
Nilgai_Wildlife_jungle_safari

The Blue Bull or Nilgai, is India’s largest antelope, though it resembles a horse more than a bull owing to its laterally compressed neck. The Nilgai enjoys the status of “Lease Concern” by the IUCN.

About the Species

The Nilgai is India’s largest antelope, standing at a height of 1.2 to 1.5 metres and named so since the mature male appears ox-like with an iron-blue to light-grey coloration. Females and calves are sandy brown. Recognized by its typical horse-like gait and posture with taller forelegs and slouching shoulders leading to the low rump, the species is seen have an ungainly and awkward stance. Males and females both have white spots on each cheek and white near the lips, a white gular patch and white on the insides of the tail and belly. Both sexes grow a scraggly, low mane on the back of the neck, the difference between sexes being that the males have a long wispy beardcalled the hair pennant, which is rudimentary in females. Only the males grow horns that are short and conical; in and appear ringed at the base. An outright hefty build gives an impression that the thin legs may not be able to support the weight of this large animal!

Origins and habitat

Native to India, the Nilgai may be considered the most commonly sighted ungulate in the wild. Widely distributed across India and in the lowlands of Nepal, their habitat extends into border areas of Pakistan, though number here have reduced. It faced extinction in Bangladesh.

The Nilgaiis found inhabiting Indian grasslands and woodlands, avoiding dense forests in favour of plains and low hills covered in shrubs. Thanks to their ability to survive without water, they have made the desert districts of Western Rajasthan their home. In fact, many instances of blue bulls inhabiting fringe agricultural areas have been recorded, hence they are considered an agricultural pest, frequently destroying crops and stock.

The Nilgai shares much of its habitat with the Chousingha.

Behaviour

Habitat generalists, they feed by browsing and grazing and survive on grasses, leaves, buds, and fruit, showing a marked preference for the succulent Kader grass in the scrub-lands. They avoid dense forests. The Nilgai is a diurnal and social creature that prefers to live in herds, which may vary in composition with time, being same-sexed or single-sexed. In winter, male blue bulls of northern India are known to form herds of thirty to hundred individuals. Highly territorial in nature, both males and females mark territories by defecating in fixed locations on open ground, called “latrine sites”. Sometimes the piles building up to reach at least 3 min diameter !

The breeding season starts from late autumn. Courtship starts by way of males proving their dominance through a display of strength – holding head erect, showing off its tassel and white patched neck and horned-clashes leading to head-butting and neck-fighting. A unique behaviour is that females also engage in such behavior, butting other female rivals. The gestation period is about eight months, generally one to three calves are born.

Interesting Facts

  • Blue Bulls are pretty fast runners despite their size and bulky frame!
  • In India, it is believed that the Nilgai antelope is a sacred animal (precisely a cow or a “gai” ) and it is protected against hunting.
  • Introduces in Texan ranches in the 1920s, some of these have escaped into the wild. The US therefore harbors an “immigrant” Blue Bull population in the states of Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and Texas!
Wild Boar_Wildlife_jungle_safari

“A groundnut field visited overnight by pig, looks like it has been freshly ploughed up.

– –  M Krishnan

Such is the power and will of this large forest pig. The wild pig or wild boar or wild swine is one the most widely distributed ungulates in the world. Considered to be the wild antecedent of the domestic pig in the Indian sub-continent, the wild boar enjoys a status of “Least Concern’ by the IUCN.

About the Species

The Indian wild boar is an even-toed ungulate with a greyish-black thick coat, short muzzle, no facial warts and large ears and a stiff main of hog bristles along the back. The face, cheeks and throat have whitish markings. Legs are long and narrow and the median false hooves are long. The distinguishing feature of the Indian boar is the presence of extended canines called tushes. These canines grow both upward as well as outward.

Males have distinct tusks called under-tushes. The sow is distinctly smaller than the male, has smaller tushes and four to six pairs of mammae. Piglets are born with stripes, which disappear in the first six months. Adults measure from 83.82 to 91.44 cm (33-36 inches) in shoulder height (with one specimen in Bengal having reached 38 inches) and five feet in body length. Weight ranges from 90.72 to 136.08 kg. Indian wild boars possess an acute sense of smell. Even their eyesight and hearing power is fairly strong.

The Indian boar in itself is a sub-species of the larger Boar family, it is a distinct cousin of the Eurasian boar. The India wild pig is believed to have three sub-species further depending on geography and minor physiological characteristics.

Sub Species Common Name Range Status
S. s. cristatus Northern Wild Pig Himalayas foothills from east to north east and till River Godavari in the south Least Concern
S. s. affinis Southern Wild Pig Southwards of the River Godavari Least Concern
S. s. davidi Western Wild Pig North west including Gujarat, Rajasthan and western Punjab and Haryana Least Concern

 

In addition, two indeterminate feral forms which are much smaller than these three are supposedly found in the Andamans and Nicobars.

Origins and habitat

The Indian Wild Boar has a wide distribution through India, Nepal and Sri Lanka.Theboar species enjoys a much wider range stretching across Europe and Asia.

A habitat generalist, the wild boar is adaptable to a host of habitats right from scrub, grassland, mixed deciduous and evergreen forests. Also inhabit areas adjacent to agricultural fields, frequently foraging on farmer crop and hence considered an agricultural pest.

 

Behaviour

The wild boar is a highly adaptable creature and a feeding generalist and omnivore, surviving on anything and everything from nuts, berries, carrion, roots, tubers, refuse, insects, small reptiles, etc. Young deer and lambs may also form a part of their diet. Though not gregariously social creatures, they typically exist groups known as sounders. The number of sows, in a characteristic sounder, is two or three and rest of the members are the young ones. Communication in the group happens through grunts and squeals as they wallow in water-side mud to cool off. A highly pugnacious species, the Indian boar or wild pig is known for never giving up, it rarely abandons a charge. The dorsal crest is erect during fierce fights as a sign of threat.

There is no fixed mating period of the Indian wild boar. Mating begins with establishment of dominance by the male, a formal contest between the males takes place to decide the dominant male. Thereafter, the dominant male mates with the female boar. Gestation lasts for four months with births typically happening in the spring and each litter consisting of four to six cubs.

Interesting Facts

  • The boar enjoys mention in Vedic mythology. According to a story present in the Brāhmaṇas, Indra slaying an avaricious boar who had stolen the treasure of the asuras, then giving its carcass to Vishnu, who offered it as a sacrifice to the gods. In the story’s retelling in the Charaka Samhita, the boar is described as a form of Prajāpti, and is credited with having raised the earth from the primeval waters. In the Rāmāyaṇa and the Purāṇas, the same boar is portrayed as an avatar of Vishnu
  • The wild boar is a fierce and powerful animal and present a formidable challenge even to predators like the tiger and leopard, who generally avoid contact with a wild boar unless compelled by circumstance to hunt them.
Tadoba_Bison_jungle_safari

The gaur also called Indian bison, is the largest wild cattle in the world, bigger than the the Cape Buffalo, Water Buffalo and Bison. Unlike the Elephants, the Gaur are essentially timid and avoid confrontations. The species is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List since 1986, as the population decline in parts of the species’ range is likely to be well over 70% during the last three generations

About the Species

The Indian gaur is often called the Indian Bison though it is not related to the American Bison. It is a large, dark bovine with white stockings from hoof to hock. Both sexes have a massive head, muscular shoulders and distinct ridge along the back. Males can be differentiated from females by the arching of this ridge, a distinct step exists in the ridge midway between the back. Also, adult males have short, glossy black fur whereas females have coffee-brown fur. Males have a distinct dewlap or flap of skin from the neck to the chest. However both males and females grow horns that rise from a pale coloured temporal boss. The muzzle is moist and white in colour. The gaur has a head-and-body length of8 feet 2 inches to 10 feet 10 inches with a 28 to 41 inches long tail, and is 5 feet 5 inches to 7 feet 3 inches high at the shoulder. The average weight of adult gaur is 650 to 1,000 kg!

Three sub-species of the Indian Gaur are recognized.

Sub Species Range Status
Bosgaurusgaurus India, Nepal and Bhutan Vulnerable
B. g. readei Myanmar (Burma), southern China, Lao PDR, Viet Nam, Cambodia, and Thailand Vulnerable
B. g. hubbacki Thailand Vulnerable

 

Origins and habitat

Native to South and South-East Asia, historically the Gaur occurred throughout mainland South and Southeast Asia, including Vietnam,Cambodia, Laos, China, Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Myanmar, India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal. Today, the species is seriously fragmented within its range, and regionally extinct in Sri Lanka.

In India they occur in three distinct populations – Western Ghats and the Nilgiris Plateau in south India, Vidarbha, southern MP, Chhattisgarh and Odisha southern ghats i.e. central India and also in north-east India.

Moist deciduous, bamboo and teak habitats with open grasslands seem to be the favoured habitat of the Indian Gaur, with some preference for semi-evergreen and evergreen forests. They are found to some extent in dry deciduous forest, scrubs and plantations. Maximum altitude of occurrence is 3000 m.

 

Behaviour

Very calm for a creature of its size, Gaur rarely attacks unless tormented. They have been seen allowing close presence of humans and possess an acute sense of smell. When agitated, it lowers its head and raises its tail as a warning signal. However the first response is flight and not fight, they crash into the jungle at an alarming speed when threatened. The animal is basically diurnal. During the dry season, herds congregate and remain in small areas, dispersing into the hills with the arrival of the monsoon. They are grazers and browsers, feeding on a large variety of grasses and plants with a preference for the upper portions of plants, such as leaf blades, stems, seeds and flowers of grass species. Many are also known to forage agricultural fields.

The gaur is a highly social creature, found in herds of generally eight to eleven individuals, typically one of the members is a bull. However the leadership of the herd rests with one of the adult females, the matriarch. To warn members of predators, they give out a high pitched whistling alarm call.  April and May is the mating season, when more bulls may join the group for mating. Solitary adult males have been recorded, which may wander in search of females for mating, while calling out the mating call which may carry across for more than 1.6 km. Gestation lasts for 275 days after which one calf is born.

Interesting Facts

  • When confronted by a tiger, the adult members of a gaur herd often form a circle surrounding the vulnerable young and calves, shielding them from the big cat.
  • The gaur derives its name from Sanskrit. The Sanskrit word गौर(gaura) means white, yellowish, reddish. The Sanskrit word gaur-mriga means a kind of buffalo
  • The gaur is the State Animal of Goa in India
  • “Krating Daeng” today is a brand of energy drink named after and featuring a pair of charging red gaur bulls in the logo; also used on the licensed derivative, “Red Bull”