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2017: spotted in Chhattisgarh, first after 1905 in Raipur
RAIPUR: In a unique finding, the Chhattisgarh forest department found country's smallest descendent of ungulate species known as Indian mouse deer in forests of Gariyaband district "with photographic evidence", during phase IV Tiger monitoring programme conducted by Nova Nature Welfare Society. It's after 112 years that Mouse Deer was spotted in state as it was last reported in 1905 as first evidence of its presence by a British from Raipur province of Central India.
The IV phase tiger monitoring programme that went on between November 2016 and June 2017 in Udanti Sitanadi Tiger reserve forests of Gariyaband district was presided by a wildlife NGO Nova Nature Welfare Society (NNWS) under the direction of O P Yadav (Field Director) and Mr. B Vivekananda Reddy (Deputy Director).
Confirming the findings, OP Yadav, field director Udanti Sitanadi said, "It's for the first time that the species has been spotted with photographic evidence. We would work towards its protection by giving it a proper habitat with food and water holes. Ensuring least biotic interference, efforts would be made to protect the number of Mouse Deer and extra care would be taken." Moiz Ahmed of NNWS said that Mouse Deer was spotted in the camera trap installed to monitor movement of tigers in the region. As part of a systematic approach for monitoring, tigers trap cameras were deployed grid-wise across 1842 square kilometres.
"During preliminary survey for wild animal's signs, the team noticed very small hoof marks and a set of cameras were installed in the region. These cameras were checked every fifth day or a week and during such checking photographs of mouse deer was captured and recorded by trap cameras. While the population isn't known, at least 4-5 grids had captured Mouse Deer presence,"Moiz said.
The photographic evidence shows existence of smallest deer species recorded in Chhattisgarh for the first time while in 1905, its first evidence was collected by a British named Brook from Raipur province of central India.
Elaborating about the rare species, he said that the animal is cute, gentle and shy in nature, hardly stands to 15 inches on shoulders. This creature is the smallest descendent of ungulate species (deer specie). Mouse Deer is also known as Indian Chervotain.
The existing population of Indian mouse deer is probably facing severe threat as the local tribesmen are known to hunt deer species for consumption in this area. More research interventions are needed to know the status of this species in Udanti Sitanadi landscape which will contribute towards better conservation of the species in long run.
As per a recently published paper, the species belongs to an ancient group of primitive ruminants, and is listed in schedule-I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and declared as Least Concerned species by IUCN (2017).
It is already a highlighted species in Indian wildlife research due to its mystic presence across the distribution ranges in India and Nepal. NNWS members said that at the start of phase IV, existence of such rare species was questionable but after eight months of rigorous efforts in highly undulating terrain provides not only once but scores of evidences regarding existence of mouse deer in this landscape.
Not only Mouse Deer, but the Tiger reserve also supports variety of life forms comprises of more than 30 known mammals including rare Wild Water Buffalos, Royal Bengal Tiger to smallest Mouse deer, Bats along with scores of birds, reptiles and varied flora. The team from NNWS working on this project lead by M Suraj, Moiz ahmed with technical assistance from Krishnendu Basak and team members Ajaz Ahmed, Irfaan, Avinash, Om Prakash, Chiranjivi Sinha.