Saturday, August 17, 2019

Barasingha:The Deer With Twelve Tines

Barasingha as it is known in the local lingo is a species similar to the red deer of Europe. It is so called because its head is adorned with twelve or more tines in a unique formation. 

Male Swamp Deer

Swamp Deer

Swamp Deer Fawn
In Hinda Bara=12 Seeng=Antler hence the name. In English the deer is referred as Swamp Deer and in case of Kanha National Park in Central India the species found is Cervus Duavcelli Branderi

The species survives on grass and some aquatic plants and hence has been labeled as graminivore. The deer consumes some specific species of grass and is highly sensitive to human presence. It is shy animal which lives in herds in grassy meadows rarely venturing into the canopy. In developing age the young males live in schools while the adults lead a group of females during the mating. The mating is a spectacular sight with males bellowing at the top of their voice. 

                                                          Barasingha Herd

In non breeding season post winter you will come across females with fawn and separate herds of males devoid of antlers. The new antlers begin to grow before the mating season arrives and they are a sight to behold.      

The sub species Branderi is only found in Kanha National Park albeit few heads have been recently trans-located to Satpura Tiger Reserve in Central India or Madhya Pradesh. The animal is also referred as hard ground swamp deer or Barasingha since over the hundreds of years it has adopted itself to trudge on hard ground since the swamps are no longer there. The Eastern races in India have webbed feet which enables them to walk on swamps this one does not anymore. This fact was discovered by Dunbar Brander a British Naturalist and hence it is named after him. This is a case of adaptation and tells us how life forms evolve in a changing environment.

Kanha boasts of the greatest conservation success whence the numbers of this species were recovered from 66 to 500. The conservation saga began in the late sixties with the assistance of George Schaller the famous American field biologist. He has penned the  accounts in his book "The Deer & The Tiger". 

The deer species once thrived in thousands in Central India but with the advance of human civilization, agriculture and hunting the status had come to a very low level and they now survived in the inviolate confines of Kanha National Park. They were the most gregarious animals in India and there populations everywhere has been contained disastrously. 

While efforts were going on to save this species from extinction it was discovered that with such low population they could not withstand predation and hence they were roped in a pen devoid of all predators. The rest is history, their numbers stand at five hundred plus and they have spread all across the core area unto many meadows.    

The deer does not co-inhabit with humans and maintains a great distance. It is confined to core area because of its shy nature.  Entirly a grass dweller the fate of this deer hangs in balance in protected areas as the habitats have been wiped out all over the country. 

At Kanha intense efforts are being made to conserve this sub species and the grasslands are preserved and looked after with care. The success has been spectacular thanks to persistant efforts. In times to come the population of this charismatic deer is going to increase and may be trans-located to other forests where they once thrived with pride. 
Uday freelances as naturalist and loves to blog on conservation and environment.

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