Fauna : Chital (Cervus axis)
Hieight : 96 cms (36 inches )
Weight: Weight 85 Kgs (190) lbs. Females are smaller


By far the most numerous of all Indian deer, the Chital or Spotted Deer is endemic to the Indian sub-continent. This is a creature of the forest edge feeding in the meadows and clearings and retreating
to the forest for shelter. It is, in Dunbar Brandar's words "……the third largest deer inhabiting the plains of India, while lacking the imposing grandeur of a fine Sambar or Barasingha stag, nevertheless in balance, grace and beauty, rivals if it does not surpass, any deer in the world".

Variable brown in colour and profusely covered with white spots, which are distinct in all age groups, and in all seasons. A dark stripe runs down from nape to the tail and is generally more prominent in the older stags which also tend to be darker around the forequarters. Antlers develop from 5-inch long spikes in yearling stags to majestic 6-tined racks (3 tines on each side) on the mature stags.

Chital primarily inhabit dry and moist deciduous forests marginally extending into the wet evergreen forests of the Western Ghats and are found throughout the sub-continent in suitable habitat. Their range extends from Sri Lanka to the Himalayan foothills and from Eastern Rajasthan to Western Assam. These deer were also introduced into the Andamans where they have prospered and overrun the islands. They are also found in the mangrove forests of the Sundarbans delta, where it is believed, they extract moisture from the succulent plants they feed on. Apparently they also feed on crustaceans exposed by the ebbing tide.

Spotted Deer are found in variably sized herds whose strength and sex - age composition is determined by habitat and season. Herds range in size from 5 individuals to congregations of 70 and more. At favourable times of the year meadows of Corbett, Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Nagarahole and Bandipura present some of the largest gatherings of Chital seen anywhere.
Essentially grazers of grass and selective browsers, Chital reach optimum numbers in the mosaic habitats of forest and grassland that characterise so much of the Indian wilderness. This is why those Protected Areas where significant relocation of human settlements has occurred presently support some of the highest densities of Chital, since the old fields and grazing grounds have been colonised by edible grasses. This appreciable increase in Chital populations in such areas in turn leads to enhanced predator populations and the challenge before the concerned managements is to maintain the status quo of these non-edaphic grasslands. In nature these grasslands would be subjected to colonisation by either coarse, inedible grasses or woodland.

Grazing is primarily a late afternoon and early morning activity with the actual hours varying according to the seasons. The rest of the day is spent alternating between browsing and resting and ruminating in shady spots. At night Chital prefer to congregate and rest out in the open, which is perhaps a defence against predators. Chital are quite dependent on water sources and like to drink at least twice a day.

One of the common and most visible associations in the jungle is that of Chital with Langur monkeys. The latter being messy feeders, drop large quantities of fruit, flowers and leaves to the forest floor which are eagerly picked up by the deer. Clearly Chital are the primary beneficiaries and almost invariably initiate contact. The Langurs remain apparently indifferent. In the hot weather when graze and browse become limited for deer, this association seems to become more marked and the

'supplementary' diet provided by the Langurs is obviously welcome. However, no studies have as yet quantified this nutritional gain to Chital and it remains a matter of conjecture whether this association has any measurable advantages to Chital health or numbers. A collateral advantage of this association is better security for both species since more eyes at different levels will more efficiently spot predators.

Chital do not have very keen eyesight, but their sense of smell and hearing is acute. When the presence of a predator is actually detected, chital respond with a lifting of their tail to reveal the white underside and repeatedly stamping the ground with there front feet, while continuing to emit a loud, shrill, yelping alarm call. Throughout their range, Chital are the most numerous of the larger ungulates and because of numbers and median size are the most common prey for Tigers, Leopards and Dhole.

Chital stags shed their antlers every year and begin to grow new ones by August/September, though this varies from region to region as does the rutting season. In Northern India this is between December and June but in Central and Southern India Chital can mate throughout the year although the peak season is between February and May. The growing antlers are covered with a fine velvety skin, which is rubbed off once the antlers are fully formed and hardened at which time a number of trees, particularly Mahua (Madhuca indica) and Salai (Boswellia serrata), are decorated with a blaze where the bark has been scraped off. The onset of the rut is marked by a loud harsh bray, which is the rutting call, and the stags indulge in a lot of sparring. These sparring matches sometimes develop into vicious fights especially between closely matched stags and have been known to occasionally result in injury or the death of one or both of the contestants.

The gestation period is nine months with a single fawn - rarely two - being born. The fawns find their feet within a matter of hours and can follow their mother around, though they are kept hidden under cover for the first few days of their life, after which they are strong enough to join and run with the congregations.

Schaller George B. 1967 : The Deer and the Tiger, University of Chicago Press
Dunbar A. 1923 : Wild Animals in Central India
Prater S.1948 : The book of Indian Animals, BNHS/Oxford University Press
Krishnan M 1985 : Nights & Days, Vikas Publishing House

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