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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Barasingha - The twelve tined deer

The Barasingha or Swamp Deer (cervus duvaucelii) is one of the most vulnerable species of deer, native to India and Nepal. The name is derived from its antlers and means 12 tined or horned deer in Hindi which is its most striking feature although mature stag has anywhere between 10-14 tines, though some have been known to have up to 20. Barasingha are also known as swamp deer, they love to live in dry grasslands, wet swampy grasslands and reed beds bordering the major rivers. Their main diet is grass which is available from vast grassland of central and northern India and they also feed from the bed of wet swamps.

Barasingha has been divided into three races namely duvauceli (swamp-dwelling and found in the Terai of Uttar Pradesh and Assam), branderi (is found in Central India) and ranjitsinhi which is seen at Assam. The central Indian race is known as Hard ground Barasingha as they have adapted to central Indian plains and live in the vicinity of forests. Today it is found only within the limits of Kanha National Park and is rightly called as 'The Jewel Of Kanha'.

Swamp deer is a medium sized deer, which grows to a height of 130 cm and weighs around 170 – 180 kg. It has thick brown coat, which becomes darker in color as the mating season approaches. In monsoon season the females start showing white spots as in Spotted deer but they are not very prominent. Male deer has antlers, which can grow to length of 75 cm with girth of 13cm at mid beam. Barasingha can be seen grazing both in the daytime as well as at night. Female Barasingha mature at an age of 2 years or more.

They usually move around in herds, consisting of ten to twenty members. However, the size of a herd keeps on changing, as the breeding or mating season comes, the number of members in a herd goes as high as sixty. The dominance over a herd of female deer is established by a fight amongst the male Barasingha. The breeding season of the swamp deer is during the winter months of November and December when males long rutting calls can be heard. They have a long gestation period of 6 months. Mother Barasingha gives birth to single young one and for protection from predators they conceal them in tall grass. It has an acute sense of smell and depends on this capacity to sense any danger.

At one point of time, Barasingha used to inhabit most of the areas of northern as well as central India. However, habitat destruction and poaching has restricted them to the protected forests of Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Madhya Pradesh. At a time the central Indian population (Hard ground Barasingha) had decreased to less than 70 and were on the brink of extinction when the forest department took in hand the precarious task of their conservation and due to hard work and dedication it has risen to a level of around 450. Their population worldwide is estimated at around 5000. The drastic decline of the Barasingha population is due to distruction or modification of its habitat, Poaching and shooting and Diseases introduced by cattle.

One can find the Barasingha (Swamp deer) in the following national parks of India:

• Dudhwa National Park (Uttar Pradesh)

Kanha National Park (Madhya Pradesh)

• Kaziranga National Park (Assam)

• Manas National Park (Assam)

To see Barasingha the best place to visit will be Kanha National Park and Tiger reserve since it has a well developed tourism infrastructure and also easy to reach. Meeting Dr. Shukla, research officer and an integral part of Barasingha conservation here can also make it a very motivating and educational tour.

Barasingha durin rutting  season (Kanha National park)

Barasingha at Kanha National Park

Hard ground Barasingha at Kanha National Park

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