Other Important Mammals

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Other Important Mammals

Red Panda

Western Red Panda is found in Nepal, Assam, Sikkim and Bhutan states of India. Red pandas are one of the few animals whose diet is composed almost entirely on bamboo.

 

Malabar Civet (Viverra megaspila)

The critically endangered Malabar Civet is endemic to the Western Ghats of India. It is listed as Critically Endangered by IUCN.

 

Salim Ali’s fruit bat

Salim Ali’s fruit bat is one of the world’s rarest bats and is the only species in the genus Latidens. It is a medium-sized fruit bat, which lacks an external tail. The head is covered in blackish-brown fur which is paler at the base, the wing membrane and the long fur are light brown in colour, and the underparts are light grey-brown. The species was first collected in 1948 by a British naturalist called Angus Hutton, who mis-identified the specimen as the common short-nosed fruit bat.

 

Pygmy Hog

The pygmy hog, barely a foot tall and a couple of feet in length, lacks the characteristic squiggly tail of other pigs. It used to be found in a narrow strip of tall and wet grassland plains in the area south of the Himalayan foothills from Uttar Pradesh to Assam, through the Nepal Terai and the Bengal Dooars. Locally, it is known as nal gahori or takuri borah in Assamese, oma thakri in Bodo, and sano banel in Nepali. It’s currently restricted to a single viable population in the wild in the Manas Tiger Reserve and a tiny reintroduced population in the Sonai Rupai Wildlife Sanctuary, both in north-western Assam. But since the elusive species rarely emerges from the tall grass, there is no data on its exact status in the wild. Most pygmy hog sightings in the wild turn out be that of wild boar juveniles.

 

Sloth Bear (Melursus ursinus)

The Indian Sloth Bear (Melursus Ursinus) can easily be recognized by his shaggy black coat, long muzzle, protruding lip and by a white V-shaped patch on the chest. His diet consists of fruits, berries, grasses, flowers, honey, insect larvae and other insects. He has a particular proclivity to “vacuum” up termites and ants using his long snout.

 

 

Small Travencore Flying Squirrel

This species is restricted to the Western Ghats of southern India and to the island of Sri Lanka at elevatons of 500 to 2,000 m. It has a wide distribution range in the two countries. In India, it is known from many fragmented locations in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, from Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary and Makutta in Coorg in Karnataka, while in Sri Lanka it has been recorded from many fragmented locations in Central, North Central, Sabaragamuwa, Southern and Uva provinces.

It is an arboreal and nocturnal species. It occurs in evergreen, deciduous and montane forests. It occupies tree canopies and holes. Can survive in slightly modified habitat (semi deciduous), former evergreen areas. Forages in plantations adjacent to forests. Small, solitary, nocturnal species living 15-20 m in canopy. Generation time may be 3-3.5 years based on other similar species.

Listed as Near Threatened because its extent of occurrence is probably approximately 30,000 km, and the extent and quality of its habitat are probably declining, and it occurs as severely fragmented populations, thus making the species close to qualifying for Vulnerable under criterion B1.

 

 

Namdapha flying squirrel

Critically endangered Namdhapa Flyng Squirrel is endemic to North East India.

 

Wild Yak

The wild yak has a dense undercoat of soft, close-matted hair which is covered by generally dark brown to black outer hair. Its long, shaggy coat reaches almost to the ground. The wild yak can weigh up to 1000 kg (2200 lb) with a shoulder height of over 2 m (6.5′). It occurs in treeless uplands, including plains, hills, and mountains, from as low as 3200 m (10,500′) up to the limit of vegetation at about 5400 m (18,000′).  It stays in high areas with permanent snow during the warmer months of August and September, and spends the rest of the year at lower elevations. The wild yak grazes on grasses, herbs and lichens. Ordinarily it gathers in groups of 10 – 30 or more, but it may occasionally be observed in large groups of 100 – 200.

The wild yak was once numerous and widespread on the entire Tibetan plateau north of the Himalayas. Currently it is found in remote areas of the Tibetan plateau and adjacent highlands, including Gansu Province, China, with a few having been observed in the Chang Chenmo Valley of Ladakh (eastern Kashmir, India). Wild yak distribution is highly clumped, with most animals in widely scattered herds, concentrated in the areas with little disturbance by humans. A survey conducted in 2003 found increasing populations of wild yak compared to previous surveys taken 10 years earlier.

Uncontrolled hunting by natives and military personnel is the main reason for the wild yak’s decline. Its range has been reduced by more than half during this century. Poaching remains the main current threat. The wild yak has lost most of the best alpine meadow and steppe habitat to pastoralists. Problems are also caused by habitat disturbance, hybridization and competition with domestic yaks, and disease transmitted by domestic yaks.

 

 

Tibetan Wolf

The Tibetan wolf is found in Tibet and Ladakh and there it is known as chánkú or shanko.

 

Desert Lynx / Caracal

Caracal means ‘black ears’ in Turkish. Large, tapering ears with five cm erect tufts of black hair, used for communication, are probably the most unique feature of this cat. Black backed ears, dark spots on both sides of the muzzle, black spots above the eyes and a black stripe from the eye to the nose break up an otherwise uniform tawny-brown to brick-red coloring. Eyes are large and yellow brown. The short, dense coat is slightly longer and whiter on the underside. Females are smaller than the males. Although they are called ‘desert lynx’, caracals have longer legs, a more slender body, and the tail is considerably longer than true lynx. They also lack the ruff of hairs around the face which are so predominant in the northern cats. Melanistic caracals have been reported, though only rarely.

 

 

Giant squirrel

The grizzled giant squirrel (Ratufa macroura) is found in Sri Lanka and Western Ghats of southern India. It is highly territorial and is very vocal upon encountering an intruder. It is usually found alone or occasionally in pairs.

 

 

Reptiles

Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus)

Gharials, sometimes called gavials, are a type of Asian crocodilian distinguished by their long, thin snouts. Crocodilians are a group that includes crocodiles, alligators, caimans, and more. Once found from Pakistan to Myanmar (Burma), the reptile’s range has shrunk to two countries: India, along the Chambal, Girwa, and Son Rivers; and Nepal, along the Narayani River.

Since the mid-1900s, the gharial’s numbers have declined as much as 98 percent due to hunting for traditional medicine and drastic changes to their freshwater habitats. For instance, people have manipulated the flow of rivers, causing certain areas to dry out and making it more difficult for water-reliant gharials to survive. The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies the species as critically endangered.

 

 

Turtles

Five species of sea turtles are known to inhabit Indian coastal waters and islands. These are the Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), Green (Chelonia mydas),Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), Loggerhead(Caretta caretta) and the Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) turtles.

 

 

Olive Ridley Turtles

The Olive ridley turtles are the smallest and most abundant of all sea turtles found in the world, inhabiting warm waters of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans. These turtles, along with their cousin the Kemps ridley turtle, are best known for their unique mass nesting called Arribada, where thousands of females come together on the same beach to lay eggs. Though found in abundance, their numbers have been declining over the past few years, and the species is recognized as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red list.

Growing to about 2 feet in length, and 50 kg in weight, the Olive ridley gets its name from its olive colored carapace, which is heart-shaped and rounded. Males and females grow to the same size; however, females have a slightly more rounded carapace as compared to the male. They are carnivores, and feed mainly on jellyfish, shrimp, snails, crabs, molluscs and a variety of fish and their eggs. These turtles spend their entire lives in the ocean, and migrate thousands of kilometers between feeding and mating grounds in the course of a year.

Olive-ridleys face serious threats across their migratory route, habitat and nesting beaches, due to human activities such as turtle unfriendly fishing practices, development and exploitation of nesting beaches for ports, and tourist centres. Though international trade in these turtles and their products is banned under CITES Appendix I, they are still extensively poached for their meat, shell and leather, and their eggs, though illegal to harvest, have a significantly large market around the coastal regions. However, the most severe threat they face is the accidental killing of adult turtles through entanglement in trawl nets and gill nets due to uncontrolled fishing during their mating season around nesting beaches.

To reduce accidental killing in India, the Orissa government has made it mandatory for trawls to use Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs), a net specially designed with an exit cover which allows the turtles to escape while retaining the catch. However, this has been strongly opposed by the fishing communities as they believe TEDs result in loss of considerable amount of the catch along with the turtle. WWF-India, along with its partners, disproved this theory by conducting a study to measure the loss of catch through TEDs, revealing the loss to be a very small percentage of the total catch. This result, along with regular meetings with the fishing communities, is slowly helping to change their mindset and encourage use of TEDs, thereby aiding the conservation of Olive ridley turtles.

 

 

Kachuga dhonkoga

The three striped roof turtle Kachuga dhonkoga is under threat because of consumption for subsistence by local populations in its distribution range, its utilization in trade, degradation of its riverine habitat due to pollution and disturbance at nesting sites. In order to augment the population of species, head start and captive breeding programmes have been taken up at the following places:

i. Kukrail Centre Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh

  1. Deori Crocodile and Turtle Rearing Centre, Madhya Pradesh

iii. Freshwater Turtle Conservation and Education Centre in National Chambal Sanctuary, Garhaita, Itawah, Uttar Pradesh.

Wildlife Crime Control Bureau has been set up by the Central Government to check illegal trade in wildlife and its products. The three striped roof turtle Kachuga dhonkoga (also known as Batagur dhongoka) has been classified as ‘Endangered’ in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

 

 

Birds

Great Indian Bustard

The great Indian bustard can easily be distinguished by its black crown on the forehead contrasting with the pale neck and head. The body is brownish and the wings are marked with black, brown and grey. Males and females generally grow to the same height and weight but males have larger black crowns and a black band across the breast. They breed mostly during the monsoon season when females lay a single egg on open ground. Males have a gular pouch, which helps produce a resonant booming mating call to attract females and can be heard up to a distance of 500 metres. Males play no role in the incubation and care of the young, which remain with the mother till the next breeding season. These birds are opportunist eaters. Their diet ranges widely depending on the seasonal availability of food. They feed on grass seeds, insects like grasshoppers and beetles, and sometimes even small rodents and reptiles.

 

Threats

The biggest threat to this species is hunting, which is still prevalent in Pakistan. This is followed by occasional poaching outside Protected Areas, collisions with high tension electric wires, fast moving vehicles and free-ranging dogs in villages. Other threats include habitat loss and alteration as a result of widespread agricultural expansion and mechanized farming, infrastructural development such as irrigation, roads, electric poles, as well as mining and industrialization.

Current Status

This species is listed as Critically Endangered because it has an extremely small population that has undergone an extremely rapid decline owing to a multitude of threats including habitat loss and degradation, hunting and direct disturbance. It now requires an urgent acceleration in targeted conservation actions in order to prevent it from becoming functionally extinct within a few decades.

Its total population has declined from an estimated 1,260 individuals in 1969 to c. 300 individuals in 2008, equivalent to a reduction of c. 82% over 47 years (three generations), assuming an exponential trend. The results of a recent genetic study, in which the effective population size was estimated from the diversity of mitochondrial DNA, provide support for an estimate of fewer than 1,000 birds, and likely about 500 during the period 2006-2010, when samples were collected (Ishtiaq et al. 2011). Population viability analysis predicts a high probability of local extinction within 50 years for populations numbering fewer than 30 individuals, with the more secure population of over 100 individuals showing sensitivity to the loss of one additional adult each year to human causes, indicating that present levels of off-take are unsustainable. Current levels of hunting may result in the extinction of even the largest western Indian population in the next 15-20 years.

 

 

Other Birds

Jerdon’s Courser

A small bird with, two brown breast-bands. Has shortish, black-tipped yellow bill, mostly blackish crown, broad buffish body and orange-chestnut throat patch. It has a very limited habitat, in southern Andhra Pradesh. Fom the Godaveri river valley near Sironcha and Bhadrachalam, and from the Cuddapah and Anantapur areas in the valley of the Pennar river. Jerdon did think that the bird had a much wider range than this and it even was present in parts of Madhya Pradesh, but at present it remains known only from the vicinity of the Lankamalai, Velikonda and Palakonda ranges in the Pennar valley, Cuddapah district, Andhra Pradesh.

 

 

Forest Owlet

The critically endangered Forest Owlet has an extremely small and fragmented population in central India. The species was originally placed with three others in the genus Athene, but has since been reclassified, now occupying its own genus Heteroglaux. Previously feared extinct, this species was rediscovered in 1997 in the state of Maharashtra, 113 years after the last confirmed record.

Unlike most of its nocturnal relatives, this owlet is diurnal, hunting lizards, birds and rodents in daylight hours. Whilst surveys continue to discover more individuals, habitat fragmentation caused by the continued loss of deciduous forest is likely to result in a further decline in this species.

 

White-bellied Heron

Also known as the imperial heron, the white-bellied heron (Ardea insignis) is the second largest species of heron in the world, exceeded in size only by the Goliath heron (Ardea goliath). This large, long-necked species is named for its white underbelly and wing linings.

The male white-bellied heron is very similar in appearance to the female, with a blackish head topped with a pale plume of feathers, and a brownish-grey body with grey wings, legs and feet.

 

Himalayan Quail

The Himalayan quail is a medium-sized bird belonging to the pheasant family, with distinctive red or yellow bill and legs, and prominent white spots around the eyes. It has a long covert tail which is longer than most other quails. Males are dark grey with bleak streaks and a white forehead, and females are grayish brown with dark streaks. The last sighting of this bird was a group of a dozen individuals, indicating that they are social birds and generally live in coveys of five to ten. Since they were last seen more than 125 years ago, very little is known about their behaviour and characteristics.

 

 

Sociable lapwing

This conspicuously marked plover has yellow cheeks beneath a black stripe running from the black beak through the eye. It has a white stripe above this and a black cap on the crown. The wings, chest and tail are pale brown, with a dark brown, red and white underside. Juveniles are pale brown with a streaked black belly. The sociable lapwing calls with a harsh ‘kretsch kretsch’ and a rapid chattering.

 

 

Spoon Billed Sandpiper

The small sandpiper has a one-of-a-kind black spatulate bill. During the breeding season the bird is rich reddish brown particularly around the head, breast and back. The breast has varying amounts of dark spotting extending toward the belly, which is white.

During the nonbreeding season Spoon-billed Sandpipers are a mixture of white, black, and gray. The upperparts are mostly gray with a lightly streaked cap and back of the neck. Its underparts, throat and forehead are white often with a white streak over the eye. Legs are black.

Spoon-billed Sandpipers migrate down the Pacific coast of Russia, Japan, North and South Korea, and China to their main wintering grounds in Southeast Asia. They rely heavily on Yellow Sea intertidal areas during their migration. Most remaining Spoon-billed Sandpipers winter in coastal Myanmar and Bangladesh, though some birds are still found in coastal southern China, Thailand and Vietnam.

 

 

Siberian crane

The Siberian crane (Leucogeranus leucogeranus) is the third most endangered crane species in the world. It is unique amongst cranes in that it has a serrated bill, which enables it to feed easily on underground roots and on slippery prey items. This species has white plumage, and can be identified by the white cap and red mask, which reaches from behind the eye to the bill. In juveniles, this mask is feathered and the body is cinnamon or buff-coloured. Males are similar in appearance to females but are slightly larger.

 

 

Narcondam hornbill

This hornbill is listed as Endangered because it is suspected that its very small population, which is restricted to one tiny island, consists of fewer than 250 mature individuals. Its population appears to be stable despite some degree of hunting and habitat degradation.

The Narcondam hornbill species are endemic to Narcondam Island, part of the Andaman Islands, India. These hornbill species are listed as Endangered by IUCN and now less than 250 mature birds are living. These hornbills are monotypic species.

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