Land animals: India G-L

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Land animals: India G-L

GANGETIC DOLPHIN

This fresh water dolphin was once very commonly found in Ganga, Brahmaputra, and all their major tributaries. The Gangetic Dolphin plays a role of the highest predator in the riverine habitat by feeding on fishes and molluscs. They live in small groups and are very playful in nature. They never come out of the water completely unlike their marine counterparts, but expose themselves partially while wading through the water.

You can sight them in the Ganga and its tributaries all along its course. If you happen to be on way to Nainital or Corbett and a stopover at the bridge on Gadh Ganga, about 100 km from New Delhi, there are all possibilities for sighting them and photographing them as well. It would be a tremendous achievement if you get a good photograph, as they are difficult to come by.

Water pollution, excessive fishing, motorized boats, and hunting collectively have adversely affected their population.

GIANT SQUIRREL OR MALABAR SQUIRREL

This brightly coloured large squirrel has a very wide distribution. The rich chestnut red above with yellowish white under parts combined with a long bushy tail makes it a very beautiful animal. It is predominantly arboreal and inhabits thick forests that have tall canopy trees. They are nocturnal in habit and feeds mainly on fruits, berries, nuts, and tender shoots.

This species can be an ideal example for adaptive radiation. As one goes down Southwards, the colour tends to get darker and based on this, there are a number of distinct races that have been identified which depend upon their distribution zones. Melghat, Periyar, Bandipur, Nagarhole, are some important places where you have an opportunity to spot them in the wild.

GOLDEN LANGUR

Manas is an ideal place to watch Golden Langurs. The coat is light golden or silvery in colour, which glitters in the morning sun giving it a golden appearance. This species was discovered in early sixties by eminent naturalist Late E.P. Gee. They are endemic to northeast and confined to a small pocket between the river Manas and Sankosh. Because they are found in limited region, they require utmost attention.

GHARIAL

Gharial is a fish eating crocodilian but differs from Mugger in having a long snout with small but sharp teeth which is ideal for catching slippery fish.

This relative of crocodile has been given a name 'Gharial' because the male has a bulbous growth on the snout which resembles an upturned earthern pot or ghara. Male makes loud sound with the help of this growth as a part of courtship display and when guarding its territory.

Being a fish eater, it is always looked upon as a competitor by the fisherman communities. Large scale hunting for its tough and durable skin has contributed to its virtual extinction. However, due to timely intervention of Wildlife Protection authorities, they have survived and are out of danger today.

Number of gharials in Chambal/ 2017

Aditya Dev, Number of gharials, muggers goes up in Chambal, Apr 3, 2017: The Times of India


In 2017, gharial’s figure is 93 more than the previous one.

AGRA: The number of mugger crocodiles and gharials (Gavialis gangeticus) has gone up in 2017 in the Chambal river. According to the census, there are 562 muggers and 1,255 gharials in the national Chambal sanctuary. The Chambal gharials are likely the only wild population that continues to live and thrive in an intact, large riverine habitat, where conditions are still favourable. At Chambal, some 200-300 nests are produced each year, resulting in approximate 8,000 hatchlings yearly. However their survival rate is just 2-3%.

According to forest department data, this year's gharial's figure is 93 more than the previous one, even as 108 more muggers were sighted this year. The data put the number of gangetic dolphins at 75. As many as 412 Indian skimmers were also sighted during the survey conducted between February 8 and 19 of this year. Of 1255 gharials, 65 are males, 66 hatchlings and 101 are yearlings. As far as muggers are concerned, only one hatchling and two yearlings were sighted. Anil Patel, deputy conservator of forest (National Chambal Sanctuary Project), said, "It is a positive development for the critically endangered species. We were hoping an increase in the numbers of gharials this year due to good rainfall and better hatching of eggs."

As the sanctuary is located on the tripoint of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh and co-administered by the three states, during a recent meeting of officials from the three states it was decided that a single collective survey will be conducted from next year onwards, rather than carrying out three separate ones. It will not only save time and energy, but also help in framing better strategies for their survival, Patel added. Chambal river was declared a sanctuary in 1978 to provide a fully-protected habitat for conserving the gharial and other wildlife. The total length of the river inside the sanctuary is about 600 km.

More than 85% of the total global population of gharials, which are critically endangered, live in the Chambal region. However, they are facing a major threat from the organised sand mafia. Jeffrey W Lang, researcher from the University of Minnesota and senior scientific advisor for the Gharial Ecology Project, who has been doing a study on them said illegal mining, coupled with irregular flow of water from dams in Rajasthan has caused high mortality among these amphibians, pushing them closer to extinction.

GORAL

They have a wide distribution throughout the Himalayas and are found between 1000 to 3000 m altitudes. Goral looks like a hybrid between the Antelope and Goat. The face of the Goral resembles the antelope but the stocky body looks like that of the goat. They live in small parties foraging precipitous grassy hillsides.

Dudhwa, Rajaji, Namdhapa, and Corbett are ideal places to sight them in groups.

GAUR OR INDIAN BISON

Gaur is one of the most graceful animals. Large in size with wall built powerful muscles it attains almost six feet shoulder height. Dark brown to black shining body with white socks like patch on lower limbs and large pair of horns forming semi circle above the head are some of the distinguishing features.

They are social animals, old female is a leader but large bull is a protector of the herd. The females have smaller forehead with comparatively smaller pair of horns and they are dark brown in colour with less musculature. They prefer grass patches, forest fringes and even bamboo forests and are active at dawn and dusk. Disturbance and destruction of their habitat and also killing as a trophy for their magnificent pair of horns, have greatly brought down its numbers. Hunting for most by local tribals, trapping for captivity and habitat loss are some of the factors responsible for their depleting population. At present, they are on the list of endangered species.

HISPID HARE

Hispid Hare is different from the commonly known Black Naped Hare. It is shorter and has short ears. Instead of soft fur, it has coarse hair coat.

Hispid Hare was once very common all along grasslands of terrai region, but being a slow moving animal it was an easy prey for the hunters. Now, though limited in numbers it has survived in Manas and is doing well under the protection.

HOG DEER

Hog deers are restricted to the riverine grassy plains of northern India. The male carries small antlers and has three tines like the Chital, but the inner top tine is curved downwards. They resemble the Chital.

Corbett, Dudhwa, and Manas are ideal places to locate this endangered deer.

HOOLOCK GIBBON

Hoolock Gibbon is the only ape found in this country. With very long forelimbs and flexible shoulder joints, it achieves recognition as an adept acrobat, it is arboreal and confines to high canopy forest zone. It is amazing to watch them moving with speed swinging from one branch to another.

They have very loud booming call and can be heard from a very long distance. Young male and females are black with conspicuous white eyebrow patch but adult males are overall brownish gray, whereas adult females are blonde in colour.

Habitat loss, trapping for captivity and medical experiments has reduced the numbers and secured for it a place on the list of endangered animals.

HYENA

With tall fore limbs and a very heavy head, it looks a clumsy animal. It is known to remain in the vicinity of large predators like the Tiger, Leopard, and Lion and is always on the lookout for leftover or abandoned kill. It has very powerful jaws and can crush bones with ease. Stripped hyenas are solitary in nature and differ from their African relative who live in packs and are known to kill animals on their own or even rob other predator's kill. Its call resembles the laugh of a human being.

HIMALAYAN TAHR

Himalayan Tahr is one of the mountain goats but larger in size with longer hair coat than its cousins. Legs are well built and strong which help it to survive in precipitous rocky cliffs ranging upto 12,000 ft. They are basically shy and come out on grassy slopes at evenings with large males confined to more denser forest cover.

Hunting for flesh and skin has brought down its numbers. However, in Nandadevi National Park and number of protected areas in Himalayan region they are safe.

HIMALAYAN BROWN BEAR

Related to grizzly bears of Alaska and northern Europe. Himalayan Brown Bear is confined to western Himalayan regions. It is overall brown and adept at climbing trees. It feeds upon small animals and is partial to honey. Dachigam Sanctuary in Kashmir is one of the places where one can see them at ease besides Nandadevi National Park.

Hunted for their gall bladder which is believed to have medicinal properties and also for their fur. It is a pity that they are on the endangered list of species.

HIMALAYAN WEASEL

Himalayan Weasel, specialised to survive in extremely cold climate, inhabits high altitude Himalayas. It is one of the small carnivores which feeds upon small animals. It has smooth soft fur covering which protects it from the cold climate but this soft fur has found application in making fancy items like scarves, collars and coats. As a result of wanton hunting they are an endangered species. However, total ban on the fur trade and protection of their habitat has ensured their survival.

INDIAN WILD DOG - DHOLE

Indian wild dog is widely distributed from the Himalayas and throughout peninsular India. Though they are small, they are a terror in their habitats. They live and hunt in packs. Their tenacity, courage, and hunting strategy can outwit any formidable animal, including elephant, tiger, or leopard. People looked at them as a threat and eliminated them virtually from most of their distribution zones. Under protection, they are doing well today.

Nagarhole, Bandipore, Melaghat, Kanha, are the places where one can observe them in small packs.

INDIAN WILD PIG

It is widely distributed all over the country. An animal predominantly abounding grasslands and bush forests that are close to water bodies. They wallow in muddy waters. Wild pigs are omnivorous and are known to feed on dead animals or on the kill left over by tigers or panthers. Normally, they dig tubers and roots and their presence is found even by excavating forest floors. At dusk it is really interesting to watch a large party comprising many young ones following their parents in a single file.

Kanha, Nagarhole, Bandipore, Corbett, Sariska, Ranthambore, are some of the places to observe them though they are common to most of all the protected areas.

INDIAN HARE

If you are driving along the countryside at dusk or dawn, you are likely to spot this graceful animal. The Indian hare prefers open forests, scrubland, and grasslands, and can be seen even in the vicinities of agricultural fields. Their build is slender with long legs and posses long ears with big eyes. They are hunted for their flesh and soft fur. There are two distinct species having a clearly defined distribution. The Indian hare is confined to the northern part of the country, north of Godavari, in east, and Tapti on the west. The Black-nape hare is confined to the south of Godavari and Tapti rivers.

INDIAN WOLF

Indian Wolf inhabits arid regions where it effectively plays a role of higher predator. Wolves live in packs and have elaborate burrow or den. They hunt collectively. Large scale encroachment of their habitat by herds of sheep have reduced their food base, forcing them to lift sheep. Under the pretext of protection of domestic animals and myths about child lifting, wolves were mercilessly hunted down in large numbers.

They are confined to small pockets of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Bihar.

INDIAN RHINO

One Horned Rhinoceros or Indian Rhino is the largest among rhinos. It has tremendous strength. Thick folded skin reminds of an armoured warrior. The single horn, which is infact compact hair structure, is believed to possess medicinal value in China and Oriental regions, and is always in great demand.

Rhinos forage on coarse grass and work as a lawn mower. Constant pruning of grass helps new tender grass shoots to emerge, which sustain other herbivore deer population. Once commonly found along the grasslands of himalayan foothills and even in Kashmir, where Mughal emperor is known to have killed one, it is today confined to parts of West Bengal and Assam.

A victim of superstition, its horn is believed to possess many magical and medicinal properties. In the past it was believed that a cup made out of its horn could neutralize any poison. Large number of rhinos have lost their lives for the sake of such cups which were used by kings and nobles. Even now rhino horns are in great demand as they are used for the preparation of Chinese medicine which is a powerful aphrodisiac and fetches very high price in the market. Thus despite of protection, short term economical gains attract organised poachers who mercilessly kill them. Awareness of the importance of rhino in the eco-system and peoples cooperation alone can protect this unique species.


INDIAN PORCUPINE

This large rodent like animal with long quill cover are sought after for its tender flesh, but are dangerous to deal with. Their sharp strong quills are a major threat. Many a times the big cats get quills embedded in their bodies and result in their death or disability. Such injured tigers and leopards often become man-eaters, as they are unable to pursue their normal prey.

Porcupines are nocturnal and come out at dusk from their burrows. They nibble at hard wood and their presence is evident by finding chipped wood at the base of the tree. Kanha, Sariska, Melaghat, Tadoba, are some of the places you can encounter the porcupine.

INDIAN PANGOLIN

Indian Pangolin covered with bony plates is more of an armoured vehicle. Under threat they curl up into a ball of bony plates and escape from enemy. Long powerful claws help it to dig hard soil and break open termite hills. It is one of those animals having no teeth. It takes in termite and ants with the help of long sticky tongue. Pangolins are arboreal and it's prehensile tail provides an additional support in climbing.

The myth about the medicinal properties of its flesh and bony plate scales is responsible for their loss of population.

JACKAL

It is one of the most widely distributed members of the dog family. They are normally seen in the vicinity of human habitation in rural India. They live in small packs and their presence is revealed by their typical cry at dusk. They feed on small animals and birds besides having a special liking for berries and sugarcane. They are also associated with the larger predators like tigers and leopards, for leftovers.

Jackals play an important role in seed dispersal. It is believed that coffee seeds passed through its digestive tract after feeding on coffee berries have better germination chances.

If you are in Corbett National Park, you are sure to see them within the tourist complex itself at dusk. The same is applicable with the other protected areas in the country.

KASHMIR STAG - HANGUL

It is the only representative of Red deer found in India.

Dachigam National Park is the only place where one can see this species. The male carries a large pair of horns having 11 to 16 points. By the turn of the century, their population was 5000 but has dwindled to about 180 by 1972. Presently, due to conservation efforts, about 500 animals are located in Dachigam.


NILGIRI TAHR

Nilgiri Tahr is the only mountain goat found in the South of Himalayas. They are very agile and are completely at home in the grass patches along the steep slopes and precipitous rock cliffs. In the Western Ghats, Eravikulam is an ideal destination to observe them in their natural habitats.


KASHMIR STAG - HANGUL

It is the only representative of Red deer found in India.

Dachigam National Park is the only place where one can see this species. The male carries a large pair of horns having 11 to 16 points. By the turn of the century, their population was 5000 but has dwindled to about 180 by 1972. Presently, due to conservation efforts, about 500 animals are located in Dachigam.

HOG DEER

Hog deers are restricted to the riverine grassy plains of northern India. The male carries small antlers and has three tines like the Chital, but the inner top tine is curved downwards. They resemble the Chital.

Corbett, Dudhwa, and Manas are ideal places to locate this endangered deer.


INDIAN WILD DOG - DHOLE

Indian wild dog is widely distributed from the Himalayas and throughout peninsular India. Though they are small, they are a terror in their habitats. They live and hunt in packs. Their tenacity, courage, and hunting strategy can outwit any formidable animal, including elephant, tiger, or leopard. People looked at them as a threat and eliminated them virtually from most of their distribution zones. Under protection, they are doing well today.

Nagarhole, Bandipore, Melaghat, Kanha, are the places where one can observe them in small packs.

LION-TAILED MACAQUE

Lion tailed macaque is a symbol of the conservation movement in India. It is restricted to the southern India along Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamilnadu borders. It is predominantly an animal of evergreen forests. The conservation movement took off to save its habitat, which was likely to disappear under the Silent Valley project.

It is black with a gray mane and a tail with a tuft at the end similar to that of a lion. It is arboreal in nature. Periyar and Silent Valley are the ideal places to see this unique species. You can see troops of 10 to 20 animals foraging on fruits, flowers, and tender shoots among the broad canopy trees.

LEOPARD OR PANTHER

It is one of the most successful big cats well known for its beautiful coat. Leopards have adapted to every possible habitat of the Indian subcontinent. They are bold and can be seen in close vicinity to human habitations. Leopards are expert climbers and can carry their prey high up in the trees to protect it from other predators. Leopards can be seen in most of the protected areas and the ideal time to sight them is at dusk. You can see them lying close to the roads looking for unsuspecting prey.

OTTERS

Otters are very playful creatures and are always a sight to watch. They are found along water bodies specially streams with boulders, grass patches and occasional deepwater pools. Streamlined bodies and rudder-like flat tail make them perfect swimmers. They can be seen playfully moving from one end of the stream to the other looking for aquatic animals including fish. They are preferably nocturnal but one can sight them at dusk and dawn in river Ramganga at Corbett and at Periyar National Park.

LION-TAILED MACAQUE

Lion tailed macaque is a symbol of the conservation movement in India. It is restricted to the southern India along Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamilnadu borders. It is predominantly an animal of evergreen forests. The conservation movement took off to save its habitat, which was likely to disappear under the Silent Valley project.

It is black with a gray mane and a tail with a tuft at the end similar to that of a lion. It is arboreal in nature. Periyar and Silent Valley are the ideal places to see this unique species. You can see troops of 10 to 20 animals foraging on fruits, flowers, and tender shoots among the broad canopy trees.

LEOPARD OR PANTHER

It is one of the most successful big cats well known for its beautiful coat. Leopards have adapted to every possible habitat of the Indian subcontinent. They are bold and can be seen in close vicinity to human habitations. Leopards are expert climbers and can carry their prey high up in the trees to protect it from other predators. Leopards can be seen in most of the protected areas and the ideal time to sight them is at dusk. You can see them lying close to the roads looking for unsuspecting prey.

LEOPARD CAT

The Leopard cat has a very wide distribution. They prefer wooded areas and are active at dusk and dawn. Three hollows are their preferred shelters. Compared to their small size, leopard cats are very bold and aggressive and known to kill larger animals like deer also, but mainly feed on birds and rodents. With its beautiful spotted coat it resembles to be a miniature leopard and this is reason enough for its victimization. Large scale hunting for their fur has deeply affected their population and today they are on the endangered list. Leopard cats are found in most of our protected areas, but being shy by nature, they can only be spotted during a chance encounter.

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