Sunday Article: Vanishing Species – Forest Owlet

Sunday Article by Mohan Pai
 
 
Forest Owlet
Athene blewitti
 
 

Sighted in the wild for the last time in 1884, it was rediscovered after 113 years in1997.Only 100 breeding pairs survive in the wild.

The Forest Owlet, Athene blewitti, had not been seen in India last in1884. The last confirmed record- a specimen in Britain’s Natural History Museum – was collected in 1884. Believed to have been extinct for over a century, 113 years to be precise, it was rediscovered by Pamela C. Rasmussen, Ben King and David Abbott at Shahada near Taloda in the Nandurbar district of Maharashtra (Toranmal Reserve Forest) in India in November 1997.

How this rediscovery came about is a fascinating story, involving theft, fraud, and international espionage. In the course of working on a field guide to the birds of the Indian subcontinent, ornithologist Rasmussen became aware of irregularities in the records of Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen, a World War I British spy and colorful character who early in this century owned what was generally considered to be the finest private collection of Old World birds in existence. Through painstaking research, she and her colleague, Nigel J. Collar of Birdlife International, were able to show that Meinertzhagen’s specimen of a Forest Owlet–which he had supposedly collected in 1914, was a fraud and had been taken from an existing 19th-century collection.

The species epithet commemorates F. R. Blewitt, the collector of the first specimen that was obtained in December 1872 from Busnah-Phooljan near Basna on the Phuljar highway in eastern Madhya Pradesh. The specimen was sent to Allan Octavian Hume who described it in 1873.

The Forest Owlet is small (23 cm) and stocky. It is a typical owlet with a rather unspotted crown and heavily banded wings and tail. They have a relatively large skull and beak. Unlike the Spotted Owlet, the Forest Owlet has the fewer and fainter spots on the crown and back. The upperparts are dark grey-brown. The upper breast is almost solid brown and the sides are barred with a white central wedge in the lower breast that is sometimes unmarked, especially in males. The primaries are darker and distinct. The wings and tail are banded with white trailing edges. A dark carpal patch on the underwing visible in flight. The facial disc is pale and the eyes are yellow.

Distribution and habitat

Until its rediscovery in 1997, this owl was known from only seven specimens collected in the nineteenth century, in northern Maharashtra, and south-east Madhya Pradesh/western Orissa. In November 1997 a group of American ornithologists, including Pamela C. Rasmussen, rediscovered the species in foothills of the Satpura Range, north-east of Bombay. In 2000 a survey of 14 forest areas across its former range located 25 birds (using call playback) at four sites in northern Maharashtra and south-western Madhya Pradesh, including three pairs at Taloda Forest Range and seven pairs at Toranmal Forest Range. No birds were found in a brief survey of its former eastern range in Orissa. More recently survey efforts in the Satpura Range added another five sites. The species was also reported from the Chatwa and Padwa forests near Andhra Pradesh by K. S. R. Krishna Raju

The Forest Owlet has sightings from the Talda Forest Range, the Toranmal Forest Range, the Melghat Tiger Reserve, and the Khaknaar Forest Range, all in central India had dense to open deciduous forest.

Behaviour

These owls typically hunt from perches where they sit still and wait for prey. When perched they flick their tails from side to side rapidly and more excitedly when prey is being chased.. When nesting the male hunted and fed the female at nest and the young were fed by the female. The young fledge after 30–32 days

The peak courtship season is in January to February during which time they are very responsive to call playback with a mixture of song and territorial calls.

They appear to be strongly diurnal although not very active after 10 AM, often hunting during daytime. On cold winter mornings they bask on the tops of tall trees. Filial cannibalism by males has been observed.

They make several different calls. These include a hissing call of short duration. The song calls are short and mellow unlike those of most owls.

Status

The Forest Owlet remains critically endangered, and the current population has been estimated at about 100 breeding pairs. It is thought that this owl has always been rare. The original specimens were collected in dense jungle, and the recent sightings in more open forest may also represent a habitat. The forest in the plains in its range has been totally cleared, and there is pressure on the remaining forest resources.

 

Until recently, the best illustration of the Forest Owlet was the one above, which appeared in The Scientific Results of the Second Yarkard Mission, published in 1891. the illustration has several inaccuracies: the cheek patches are too dark and the breast is too barred; the belly, lower flanks, and undertail coverts should be completely white, not marked; the bands in the wing should be whiter; and the bill should be larger.
 
 
References: Wikipedia, Copperwiki, “Lost & Found” by Tim Gallagher.

Sunday Article: Vanishing species – the Purple Frog

Sunday Article by Mohan Pai

 
 The Purple Frog
Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis
 
                                                                                          Pic courtesy: Sathyabhama Das Biju
 
100 million-year old species discovered in Idukki district of Kerala in 2003
 
The purple frog is a living fossil and was initially assigned to a new family of its own, Nasikabatrachidae, buthas been more recently assigned to the family Sooglossidae which is found on the Seychelles islands.

Being a member of the family Sooglossidae, the species’ origins lie in close consort with the Seychelles islands where the family was previously solely known from. The origin of the disjunct distribution goes back to about 100 million years ago, during which time India, the Seychelles and Madagascar formed a single landmass which split due to continental drift.
 
The body of the Purple Frog is shaped similarly to that of most frogs, but is somewhat rounded compared to other frogs. Its arms and legs splay out in the standard anuran body form. Compared to other frogs, it has a small head and an unusual pointed snout. Adults are typically dark purple in color. The specimen with which the species was originally described was seven centimeters long from the tip of the snout to the tip of the urostyle. Also, its cry sounds more like one from a chicken.

The species was discovered in the Idukki district of Kerala by S.D. Biju from the Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute in Palode, India and Franky Bossuyt from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Free University of Brussels). However it was well known to the local people before and several earlier specimens had been ignored.
 
Earlier thought to be restricted to the Western Ghats south of the Palghat gap, new records have extended its known range further north of the gap.

The frog spends most of the year underground, surfacing only for about two weeks, during the monsoon, for purposes of mating. The frog’s reclusive lifestyle is what caused the species to escape earlier notice by biologists.

Unlike many other burrowing species of frogs that emerge and feed above the ground, this species has been found to forage underground feeding mainly on termites using their tongue and a special buccal groove. They show inguinal amplexus (male clasping the female from behind) when mating afloat in temporary rainwater pools.

The scientific name derives from the Sanskrit word nasika (nose) referring to the pointed snout, batrachus Greek for frog, and Sahyadri as the local name of the mountain range where it was found – the Western Ghats.
 
Distribution

This species is endemic to the Western Ghats in India, and is known from only two localities in the Idukki District in the Cardomom Hills, Kerala at an altitudinal range of 850 – 1,000m above sea level. These two areas are Kattapana and near Idukki town. It might occur more widely, but it seems that other reported localities probably refer to currently undescribed species.

The purple frog is thought to be a rare species, although it is very hard to find which makes any population estimate difficult to determine. Only 135 individuals have so far been observed, and of these only three have been females. The plantation workers within the range of this species have reported that this frog is uncommonly found when they are cutting trenches during the monsoon period (June to October).

Status

The purple frog is listed as Endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species because its extent of occurrence is less than 5,000 km sq., all individuals found are in fewer than five locations, and there is a continuing decline in the extent and quality of its habitat in the Cardmom Hills, Western Ghats.The main threat to the purple frog is believed to be ongoing forest loss for coffee, cardamom, ginger and other species for cultivation.
 
 

 
Possible Indian odysseys: three models of the position of Africa 65 million years ago. a, India separated by large expanse of water b, limited land bridge between Africa and India c, connections between Africa, India, Asia and Madagascar.

Image courtsey Nature.

References: Wikipedia, Genome News Network.

Sunday Article: Vanishing species- Pygmy Hog

Sunday Article by Mohan Pai
Hello friends,

Good morning. A number of my readers wrote asking why the Sunday Articles had stopped.

Unfortunately, I had to undergo an emergency cardiac surgery and hence this long intervening gap.

This Sunday, it’s about the Pygmy Hog, a highly endangered species. In fact it is more endangered than the tiger ! Only about 150 animals survive in the wild only in Assam (Manas National Park).

When it comes to conservation, the flagship species like the tiger, rhino, etc. hog the limelight. The plight of the lesser vulnerable, critically endangered animals gets hardly any attention.

Very best wishes,

Mohan Pai

Pygmy Hog
Sus salvanius

The smallest pig in the world is also more endangered than the tiger !
Only 150 animals survive in Assam.

The Pygmy Hog is critically endangered with less than hundred and fifty thought to be left in the wild. Once native to India, Bhutan and Nepal, these little guys were thought extinct from the 1950s-60s, until a small population was discovered. They can now be found only in the northwest Assam region in India. The pygmy hog is notable as it is the only surviving member of the genus Porcula.

The pygmy hog is a small wild pig weighing about 8.5 kg (10 lb). It lives in dense, tall grassland, where it feeds on roots, tubers and other vegetable matter, as well as insects and other invertebrates. Nests are built and used by both sexes at all times of the year. The pygmy hog is apparently non-territorial. It lives in small family groups of about 4 – 5 individuals, comprised of one or more adult females and accompanying juveniles, and occasionally an adult male.

The pygmy hog formerly occurred throughout the Terai region of India, Bhutan and Nepal. It is now found only in northwest Assam, India. By 1993 it was reduced to only two known, isolated populations in northwest Assam – the Manas Wildlife Sanctuary and the Barnadi Wildlife Sanctuary.

The continuing decline of the pygmy hog is due to the modification and elimination of its limited habitat by human settlement, agricultural encroachment, overgrazing by domestic livestock, commercial forestry, flood control projects, and civil unrest among Assamese ethnic groups.
Pygmy Hogs are about 55 to 71 cm long and stand at 20-30 cm with a tail of 2.5 cm. They weigh 6.6 to 11.8 kilograms. Their skin is dark brownish black and the fur is dark. Piglets are born grayish-pink becoming brown with yellow stripes along the body length. The head is sharply tapered and they have a slight crest of hair on the forehead and on the back of the neck. Adult males have the upper canines visible on the sides of the mouth. They live for about 8 years, becoming sexually mature at 1-2 years. They breed seasonally before the monsoons giving birth to a litter of 3-6 after a gestation of 100 days. In the wild they make small nests by digging a small trench and lining it with vegetation. During the heat of the day they stay within these nests. They feed on roots, tubers, insects, rodents, and small reptiles.

The species was first described as the only member of the genus Porcula (Hodgson, 1847), but was then regarded as the closest relative of the Eurasian pig Sus scrofa and named Sus salvanius The resurrection of the original genus status and the species name Porcula salvania has been adopted by GenBank. The species name salvania is after the Sal forests where it was found.

Status

The pygmy hog is the sole representative of Porcula, making the conservation of this critically endangered species even more important as its extinction would result in the loss of a unique evolutionary branch of pigs. They used to be widespread in the tall, wet grasslands in the southern Himalayan foothills from Uttar Pradesh to Assam, through Nepal and north Bengal. However, human encroachment has largely destroyed the natural habitat of the pygmy hog by development, agriculture, domestic grazing and deliberate fires. Only one viable population remains in the Manas Tiger Reserve, but even there threats due to livestock grazing, poaching and fire persist. The total wild population has been estimated as less than 150 animals and the species is listed as “critically endangered” Their rarity contrasts greatly with the massive population of wild boars (Sus scrofa) in India.

Conservation

Conservation of the species has been hampered due to the lack of public support, unlike that for charismatic South Asian mammals like the Bengal Tiger or Indian Rhino. Local political unrest in the area has also severely hampered effective conservation efforts, but these conflicts have now ceased.

References: Wikipedia, Animal Kingdom, Zooillogix.

Sunday Article: Clouded Leopard

Sunday article by Mohan Pai
 
 Clouded Leopard
 
Neofelis nebulosa
 

Clouded leopard is not a leopard but a relative of the extinct saber toothed tiger.
 

It has long been known that the clouded leopard has the longest upper canine teeth for its skull size of any modern carnivore, causing some people to compare the cat with the extinct saber-toothed cat.

Recent research into the skull characteristics of both living and extinct cats has revealed that the clouded leopard has a skull unlike any other cat today. In a number of respects it bears distinctive resemblance to the primitive saber-toothed cats.
 
The Clouded Leopard is a medium-sized cat found in Southeast Asia. It has a tan or tawny coat, and is distinctively marked with large, irregularly-shaped, dark-edged ellipses which are said to be shaped like clouds. This unique appearance gave the mammal both its common and scientific species name (nebulosus is Latin for “cloudy”). The Clouded Leopard was confusing to scientists for a long time because of its appearance and skeleton. It seemed to be a cross between a big cat and a small cat. The scientific name of the genus, Neofelis, originates from neo, which means “new”, and felis, which means “small cat”, so it literally means new kind of small cat.
 
The average Clouded Leopard typically weighs between 15 and 23 kg (33 to 50 lb) and has a shoulder height of 25 to 40 centimeters (10 to 16 inches).This medium sized cat has a large build and, proportionately, the longest canine teeth (2 in, about the same as a tiger’s) of any living feline. These characteristics led early researchers to speculate that it preyed on large land-dwelling mammals. However, while remarkably little is known about the natural history and behavioral habits of this species in the wild, it is now thought that its primary prey includes arboreal and terrestrial mammals, particularly gibbons, macaques, and civets supplemented by other small mammals, deer, birds, porcupines, and domestic livestock.
 

 

 
Clouded leopard – Range map
 
As might be expected from the fact that some of its prey lives in trees, the Clouded Leopard is an excellent climber. Short, flexible legs, large paws, and sharp claws combine to make it very sure-footed in the canopy. The Clouded Leopard’s tail can be as long as its body, further aiding in balance giving it a squirrel-like agility similar to the Margay of South America. Surprisingly, this arboreal creature can climb while hanging upside-down under branches and descend tree trunks head-first.
 
Behavior
 
Like all wild cats, clouded leopards are carnivores. They are thought to hunt a variety of prey including birds, squirrels, monkeys, deer, and wild pigs. It was once thought that clouded leopards hunted while climbing. Current thought, however, is that while some hunting may occur in the trees, most likely takes place on the ground. Trees are thought to provide resting habitat during the day.

Virtually nothing is known of the social behavior of wild clouded leopards. They are likely solitary, like most cats, unless associated with a mate while breeding or accompanied by cubs. Likewise, activity patterns are virtually unknown. Once thought to be exclusively nocturnal, evidence suggests that they may show some periods of activity during the day as well.

Reproduction

Clouded leopards are sexually mature around the age of 2 years. Mating can occur in any month, but in captivity most breeding occurs between December and March. The gestation period is between 85 and 93 days with 1 to 5 cubs produced per litter. Cubs are independent at approximately 10 months of age. Females can produce a litter every year.
 
 
 


 
 
References, Wikipedia, S. H. Prater (The Book of Indian Animals), iloveindia.com
 
 MY BLOG LIBRARY 
 For some of my articles visit:
http://mohanpaiblogger.blogspot.com/
http://mohanpaisarticles.blogspot.com/
http://biodiversity-mohanpai.blogspot.com/
For some key chapters from my book “The Western Ghats”, please log on to:
http://westernghats-paimohan.blogspot.com/
For detailed blog (6 Chapters from my book) on Mahadayi/Mandovi River Valley, please log on to:
http://mohan-pai.blogspot.com/
For the book ‘The Elderly’ please log on to:
http://omashram.sulekha.com/blog/posts.htm
http://oldagecare-paimohan.blogspot.com/
You can also access my blogs on Sulekha and WordPress
http://mohanpai.wordpress.com/
http://mohanpai.sulekha.com/blog/posts.htm
For my book “The Flight of Gods – Hindu Temples & Shrines of Goa” please log on to:
http://flightofgods.sulekha.com/blog/posts.htm
http://flightofgods.blogspot.com/
For “Miscellany” log on to:
http://paimohan-mohanpai.blogspot.com/
(Traditional Hindu Central Courtyard Houses of Goa)

Sunday Article: Indian Chameleon

Sunday article by Mohan Pai

INDIAN CHAMELEON
Chamaeleo zeylanicus
                                     Photo courtesy Amrut Singh, Goa.
 
 
The Amazing Chameleon !
 
Apart from changing colours, it can focus each of the two eyes in different directions and observe two different objects simultaneously!

 The Indian Chameleon, Chamaeleo zeylanicus is a species of chameleon found in India, Sri Lanka, and other parts of South Asia. Like other chameleons, this species has a long tongue, feet that are shaped into bifid claspers, a prehensile tail, independent eye movement and the ability to change skin colour. They move slowly with a bobbing or swaying movement and are usually arboreal.

The ability to change colours has made these lizards famous. Strangely, they do not choose the background colour and may not even be able to perceive colour differences. They are usually in shades of green or brown or with bands. They can change colour rapidly and the primary purpose of colour change is for communication with other chameleons and for controlling body temperature by changing to dark colours to absorb heat. Though many lizards can change colour, chameleons have made an art, and we see them go from brilliant yellow through shades of green and brown, all the way to dark purple.
 
There is only one species of chameleons found in the Indian subcontinent, scientifically known as Chamaeleo zeylanicus. The term ‘chameleon’ is a combination of two Greek words, ‘Chamai’, meaning ‘on the ground/earth’ and Leon, meaning ‘lion’. Thus, ‘chameleon’ means ‘earth lion’. The foot structure, eyes and tongue of all the chameleons are the same.

Physical Traits

The body of the chameleon lizard is covered with granular scales and measures upto 37 cm in length. Its feet are split into two main fingers, each of them attached with sharp claws that help in climbing trees. The bulging eyes are nearly covered by eyelids. The upper and lower eyelids of a chameleon are joined and there is a small pinhole through which the pupil can be seen. The chameleon can focus each of the two eyes in different direction and observe two different objects simultaneously.

One of the most interesting features of an Indian Chameleon is its extremely long tongue, which at times may exceed its body length also. The tongue is sticky at the end, which helps the reptile in catching prey. The moment the tongue of a chameleon hits a prey, it forms a small suction cup and draws the prey into the mouth. Chameleons do not have ears and vomeronasal (bone forming part of the middle partition of nose) organ.

Mating Behavior

The breeding season of the chameleon lizard falls around the month of October. Ten to thirty eggs are laid at a time and the gestation period is 3 to 6 weeks. Before laying eggs, the female chameleon digs a hole in the ground, between 4 to 12 inches deep, and deposits her eggs in that hole. The eggs hatch after a period of 3 months. Like all other lizards, they do not look after their young

Diet

Chameleon lizard survives on a diet of locusts, mantids, crickets, and other insects.

Geographical Range

Chameleons are seen inhabiting almost all the parts of south India and west of the Ganges. However, they are rarely seen in areas that receive heavy rainfall. Chameleons are mostly arboreal and are found in trees or on smaller bushes.

 
References: iloveindia.com, Wikipedia.
  
  
MY BLOG LIBRARY

For some of my articles visit:
http://mohanpaiblogger.blogspot.com/
http://mohanpaisarticles.blogspot.com/
http://biodiversity-mohanpai.blogspot.com/
For some key chapters from my book “The Western Ghats”, please log on to:
http://westernghats-paimohan.blogspot.com/
For detailed blog (6 Chapters from my book) on Mahadayi/Mandovi River Valley, please log on to:
http://mohan-pai.blogspot.com/
For the book ‘The Elderly’ please log on to:
http://omashram.sulekha.com/blog/posts.htm
http://oldagecare-paimohan.blogspot.com/
You can also access my blogs on Sulekha and WordPress
http://mohanpai.wordpress.com/
http://mohanpai.sulekha.com/blog/posts.htm
For my book “The Flight of Gods – Hindu Temples & Shrines of Goa” please log on to:
http://flightofgods.sulekha.com/blog/posts.htm
http://flightofgods.blogspot.com/
For “Miscellany” log on to:
http://paimohan-mohanpai.blogspot.com/
(Traditional Hindu Central Courtyard Houses of Goa)

Sunday Article: Pallas’s Cat

Sunday article by Mohan Pai
 
 Pallas’s Cat
 Octocolobus manul
 

 Pic courtesy: Edinburgh Zoo
 
An exotic and rare feline, Pallas’s cat is a small size predator of Central Asian mountains, found only in the Ladakh region in India.
 
It is named after the naturalist Peter Simon Pallas, a German zoologist and botanist who worked in Russia who first described the species in 1776. Pallas’s Cat is the oldest living species of the modern genus felis .
 
The pallas’s cat is a small, long tailed cat with a broad head, low forehead and short widely – separated ears. Pallas cat is small in size, weighing between 2 – 4.5 kg. and has a grey to ruddy grey coat. Its legs are short and striped. The forehead is spotted and the tail is bushy and striped. Pallas cats are adapted to cold, arid environments and have a wide distribution through Central Asia, but they are relatively specialized in their habitat requirements. Pallas cat is chiefly crepuscular and feeds mainly on pikes and rodents. Birds and insects also form part of its diet. Pallas cats are seasonal breeders, with most litters being born between April and May. Four to five kittens (sometimes up to 8) are born in a litter. Their gestation period is of 66 – 75 days. They are found in stony, alpine desert and grassland habitats but are generally absent from low land sandy desert basins except along river courses. They are found at altitudes up to 4,800 mts. Globally, its distribution spans the cold arid regions of the Central Asia. The northern cold desert region of Ladakh in India is its southernmost distribution
 
          Range map of Pallas’s cat                                                    
 
Pallas’s Cat is the oldest living species of a clade of felids that includes the modern genus Felis. This feline, along with the extinct Martelli’s Cat, were the first two modern cats to evolve from Pseudaelurus approximately 12 million years ago.
 

 
This cat has several features which distinguish it from other felines. Most strikingly, it has round pupils. Its legs are short, its rump is rather bulky, and its fur long and thick. The combination of its stocky posture and thick fur makes it appear especially stout and plushy. Its coat changes with the seasons: the winter coat is greyer and less patterned than the summer coat. The ears are set low and give the cat a somewhat owl-like appearance. Because of its relatively flat face, it was once thought that Pallas’s Cat was the ancestor of the Persian cat breed.
 
Pallas’s Cat inhabits the Asian steppes up to heights of 4000 m (13,000 ft). They are thought to be crepuscular hunters and feed on small rodents, pikas and birds.
 
The Pallas’ cat is similar in size to a housecat. A thick coat of shaggy fur and a long, bushy tail help combat extreme temperatures that reach lows nearing -60°F. Pallas’ cats take shelter in marmot burrows, caves, and rock crevices. 
 
Fact File

Length: 1.5 to 2 ft Weight:2-4.5 kg Lifespan: 8 to 10 yrs in wild Habitat: Mountain regions, including grassland, woodland, and semi-desert Diet: Pikas, hares, and small rodents such as gerbils, voles, and young marmots Status: Species at Risk (IUCN—Lower risk/near threatened )
 
 


 
Pic courtesy: Zurich Zoo
 
 
References: Wikipedia.
 
MY BLOG LIBRARY
For some of my articles visit:
http://mohanpaiblogger.blogspot.com/
http://mohanpaisarticles.blogspot.com/
http://biodiversity-mohanpai.blogspot.com/
For some key chapters from my book “The Western Ghats”, please log on to:
http://westernghats-paimohan.blogspot.com/
For detailed blog (6 Chapters from my book) on Mahadayi/Mandovi River Valley, please log on to:
http://mohan-pai.blogspot.com/
For the book ‘The Elderly’ please log on to:
http://omashram.sulekha.com/blog/posts.htm
http://oldagecare-paimohan.blogspot.com/
You can also access my blogs on Sulekha and WordPress
http://mohanpai.wordpress.com/
http://mohanpai.sulekha.com/blog/posts.htm
For my book “The Flight of Gods – Hindu Temples & Shrines of Goa” please log on to:
http://flightofgods.sulekha.com/blog/posts.htm
http://flightofgods.blogspot.com/
For “Miscellany” log on to:
http://paimohan-mohanpai.blogspot.com/
(Traditional Hindu Central Courtyard Houses of Goa)

Sunday Article: Nilgai

Sunday article by Mohan Pai
 
 
 
Nilgai
 Boselaphus tragocamaelus
 

 
 

 

India’s largest antelope
 

Hindi word Neelgai (Nilgai) refers to the bluish color of the adult male, and therefore Blue Bull is another name for the animal. Neelgai probably evolved in open, dry Indian forests during the Tertiary geological period. Nilgai are classified as bovids (family Bovidae), and with their close relative, the Four-horned Antelope Tetracerus quadricornis, are the only living representatives of the tribe Boselaphini.
 

Neelgai is the largest of the Asiatic antelopes. They have a life expectancy of 20 -30 years, most of which they prefer to spend in open jungles and scrubby grasslands. Adult bulls weigh about 220 kg, while the cows weigh about 180 kg and calves about 7 kg at birth. The blue-gray adult bulls have black legs, and some may be brown-tinged, particularly younger bulls. Cows and calves are fawn or pale brown. All have similar dark and white markings on their ears and legs. Only the males have horns, which are black-coloured, short (about 18 cm), sharp, and bi-curved. The hair of adults is thin in density, wiry, and somewhat oily. Their skin is thick, particularly on the chest and neck of the bulls, where it forms a dermal shield. The eyesight and hearing of Neelgai is quite good but their sense of smell less acute. They have good speed and endurance.

Neelgai make several low-volume vocalizations, including a short, guttural “bwooah” when alerted. Calves may bawl and may make a grunting sound while nursing. In India, Nilgai occurs from the foothills of the Himalayas southward to Mysore. They live on a variety of land types from hillsides to level ground with scattered grass steppes, trees, and cultivated areas, but not in thick forests. Their habitats are characterized by paths, water holes, defecation sites, and resting cover. Neelgai were common in India during
the 1880s and were hunted for sport by the British. Besides man, the tiger is their main predator. In the 1980s Neelgai had drastically declined because of shooting and loss of habitat.

Neelgai segregate into male and female groups except during the breeding season. Bulls do not maintain a fixed territory but defend a space around themselves. Fighting occurs between dominant bulls, and serious injury or death sometimes results. Neelgai make dung piles by defecating repeatedly on the same sites. The social and territorial significance of this habit is not known. Some breeding takes place year-round. At that time breeding groups of one dominant bull and one to several cows are found. The peak calving period is September through November. Neelgai breed at age two to three years, whereas males may not mature until their fourth year. The gestation period is approximately 245 days. Twins are common, and triplets occur occasionally.

Neelgai eats mainly woody plants supplemented by agricultural crops. Their diet includes herbs and plant parts (flowers, seeds, fruit, leaves, stem tips). In the absence of preferred food they readily alter their diet. In India they share certain diseases with livestock and wildlife. Perhaps the most universal of these are foot-and-mouth disease and malignant catarrhal fever. 
  Nilgai pursued by dholes, as drawn by Robert Armitage Sterndale in Denizens of the Jungles, 1886
 

Status 
 
Nilgai antelope has been listed in the ‘Low Risk’ category by the IUCN. The estimated population of Nilgai in India is approximately 100,000. The main threat to the Neelgai is from the destruction of its habitat to accommodate the ever-swelling human population.
 
Tidbits
 Blue bulls generally come to the same place to deposit their droppings.
Blue bull can survive for a long period of time without water.
Nilgai was introduced in Texas in 1920’s.

In India, it is believed that the Nilgai antelope is a sacred animal (precisely a cow) and it is protected against hunting.
 


 
References: Wikipedia, iloveindia.com
 
MY BLOG LIBRARY
For some of my articles visit:
http://mohanpaiblogger.blogspot.com/
http://mohanpaisarticles.blogspot.com/
http://biodiversity-mohanpai.blogspot.com/
For some key chapters from my book “The Western Ghats”, please log on to:
http://westernghats-paimohan.blogspot.com/
For detailed blog (6 Chapters from my book) on Mahadayi/Mandovi River Valley, please log on to:
http://mohan-pai.blogspot.com/
For the book ‘The Elderly’ please log on to:
http://omashram.sulekha.com/blog/posts.htm
http://oldagecare-paimohan.blogspot.com/
You can also access my blogs on Sulekha and WordPress
http://mohanpai.wordpress.com/
http://mohanpai.sulekha.com/blog/posts.htm
For my book “The Flight of Gods – Hindu Temples & Shrines of Goa” please log on to:
http://flightofgods.sulekha.com/blog/posts.htm
http://flightofgods.blogspot.com/
For “Miscellany” log on to:
http://paimohan-mohanpai.blogspot.com/
(Traditional Hindu Central Courtyard Houses of Goa)

Blog Stats

  • 42,080 hits

Top Clicks

  • None

Flickr Photos

More Photos

Top Rated


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.