Land animals: India M-R

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Contents

Land animals: India M-R

MOUSE DEER

Mouse deer is not a deer but an antelope. It is very small and is barely 30 cm between the shoulders, with short legs and a bulky body. Its horns are very small - rudimentary, but the males carry dagger like tushes (canines).

Mouse deer is a solitary or Leopard. They have a very wide distribution but Tadoba, Melaghat, Ranthambore, Sariska, Corbett, Nagarhole, Dudhwa, are some of the important places to sight them at their best.

MONGOOSE

This agile animal with long bushy tail is very swift and can kill its prey with their sharp teeth at ease. It is commonly believed that it has a special antipathy to serpents and even posses extraordinary power to neutralize snake venom, but such beliefs are totally baseless. The mongoose feeds on small animals and this common food base with snakes provides more opportunities of encounters. With its agility, it can be a better match and the chances of the mongoose overpowering its competitor are high. On many occasions, such fights could be fatal to both.

Mongoose has a very wide distribution and feeds on every possible small animal. Their long hair and bushy tail are used for making paint brushes and hunting them for this purpose has diminished their population. Driving along forest tracts and around rural areas, one is sure to spot a mongoose.

NILGIRI LANGUR

This dark glossy black Langur with reddish brown head and nape, are confined to the Ghats of Southern India. They are very shy compared to their other relative, the common Langur. They prefer thick forest tracks. You can see them at Thekkadi in Periyar Tiger Reserve besides some other parks of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

Large scale disturbance in their habitat and killing for flesh by the tribal community, have resulted in their depleted numbers today. Recently, they are losing ground to the more aggressive common Langur.

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.

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.

OLIVE RIDLEY TURTLE

Olive Ridley Turtle is basically a marine species and comes to coast for laying eggs. Eggs are laid in dug out sand pits beyond the tidal zone from where the hatchings crawl back to the safety of the sea. Eggs are laid on fullmoon night when the tide is highest, to ensure that there is no water logging during hatching period. Nests can be easily identified as they leave behind on sand the tell tale marks. In the past, eggs were harvested and this practice has adversely affected their population. These turtles are facing a threat from modern mechanised fixing trawlers. Nesting time is restricted and hence they congregate in very large number in the shallow waters with the urge to get opportune time. Movements of trawlers kill many and equally large number die getting entangled in fishing nets.

They are protected under Wildlife Protection Act and measures are taken to provide better survival chances by hatching eggs and rearing them till they can fight it out in open seas. Besides, co-operation from fishing communities is sought to ensure their safety when they are vulnerable. At the Sunderbans and adjoining coastal Orissa due attention is given to ensure their safety.

Turtles are treated as delicacies and their shells are converted into fancy decorative items. Ban on trade has helped this marine species in visiting our coastal regions.

PYGMY HOG

As the name suggests, Pygmy Hog is a small animal averaging, about 10 inches at the shoulder height. They are found in tall grass fields within the tropical forests.

Pygmy Hogs live in groups ranging from five to twenty animals. They are seen moving around in groups at dusk, as they are nocturnal in their habit. They feed mainly on roots and tubers and are known to take insects and occasionally even small birds.

Hunting for flesh and disturbance in their habitat are the major factors responsible for their declining population. Manas being a National Park, these animals have got full protection and they can flourish in their natural environment.

RED FACE OR RHESUS MONKEY

They are widely distributed like the common Langur, but can stay away from forest tracts and even in thickly populated large concrete mazes of the mega cities, they are always at home. They are gregarious and found in big troops. Because of their aggressive behaviour and boldness, they are a real nuisance in many parts of the country. Most of all religious places and historical monuments are incomplete without them.

RETICULATED PYTHON

Reticulated Python is one of the largest snakes growing upto 10 mts. in length. Confined to north-eastern India and south-eastern Asia, it is also found in Nicobar island groups. It is brightly coloured with bold pattern which is exceptionally beautiful. They are non-poisonous and kill their prey by strangulation with the help of powerful muscles. Prey is crushed to make swallowing easy. They feed on medium size mammals and may need food once in few weeks. Being cold-blooded animals they can be seen basking in morning sun to trap sun's heat.

The tough beautiful skin has found many applications in skin industry as it is used for making fancy items like bags, purses, shoes and even garments. As per the survey conducted it was found that during 1956-1965, nearly 1,85,700 pythons were killed. Such wanton killing has forced this species to the brink of extinction.

Protecting this unique species is essential as they play an important role of higher predator in food chain. We can contribute towards their conservation by not buying any article made out of the python skin.

RED PANDA

Red Panda is one of the most beautiful animals with its bright chestnut and white coat. It is an arboreal animal of northeastern region. Pandas have a diverse food range and feed on tender bamboo shoots, leaves, fruits, eggs, insects and occasionally on small animals.

Pandas can be tamed easily and hence were very popular pets in Europe. Trapping for captivity and habitat loss are the main factors responsible for their dwindling population.

RUSTY SPOTTED CAT

Rusty spotted cat is a smaller cat, and was once very common in the Western part of the country. It was found predominantly in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, but is currently on the endangered list due to large scale hunting for its fur. This species has almost been eliminated from most of its distribution zone and sighting them in protected areas might be possible only by chance encounters.

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