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Kaziranga Swamp Deer

Kaziranga Swamp Deer

The Barasingha, also called as swamp deer is a deer species distributed in the Indian subcontinent. It is a rare mammal species found in India and in some other parts of Sub-continent. Its scientific name is Cervus duvaucelii. Populations in Northern and Central India are fragmented. Here in North, the population of the endangered swamp deer has risen at Kaziranga National Park in Assam, with a census putting their figure at 1,148. The Barasingha is a large deer with a shoulder height of 44 to 46 in (110 to 120 cm) and a head-to-body length of nearly 6 ft (180 cm). Its hair is rather woolly and yellowish brown above but paler below, with white spots along the spine. The throat, belly, inside of the thighs and beneath the tail is white. In summer the coat becomes bright rufous-brown. The neck is maned. Females are paler than males. Young are easily spotted. Swamp deer is a medium sized deer, which grows to a maximum height of 130 cm and weighs around 180 kg. Its thick brown coat helps it in remaining warm and dry in the moist habitat it resides in. As the mating season approaches, the coat of the Barasingha becomes darker in color. A male deer has huge antlers, which can grow to length of 75 cm. It is a omnivorous animals and totally feeds on plants, grass, vegetation and tree leaves.

Distribution
The Barasingha is currently found in isolated localities in North and Central India, and south-western Nepal. Earlier it was present in Pakistan and Bangladesh also but they are now extinct here. Into the early twentieth century, the Barasingha was widely distributed in areas of suitable habitat throughout the Indo–Gangetic plain and the lowlands flanking the southern Himalaya. The range formerly extended eastward across the terai of southern Nepal through the Sundarbans as far as Assam. Barasingha occurred west to the River Indus, into Pakistan, and as far south as the River Godavari area of east-central India. The only known population in Bangladesh was in the Sundarbans, where it has been extinct for perhaps a century. The species may also have been in the northeast of Bangladesh, given its distribution in adjacent India. The present distribution of the Barasingha is much reduced and fragmented, reflecting major losses in the 1930s–1960s through conversion of large tracts of grassland to cropland and through barely-restrained hunting. But ever since then, many conversational efforts have been taken up by the Govt of India to conserve their species and henceforth the results can seen in few national parks of India including Kaziranga National Park. Now a days, we can find them in Indian states like Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Assam.

Feeding
Swamp deer are basically grazer due to which they lives in the swampy grasslands and floodplains of Indian sub continent. It is a rare species of deers and does not exist globally. It also utilizes surrounding riverine forests and woodlands. It is highly dependent on the availability of water. Swamp deer is mainly a grazer, eating grass and leafy aquatic vegetation. It feeds mainly in the morning and evenings, and in the midday heat it retreats to the shade or rest in the open. Where there is substantial human disturbance, the swamp deer is mainly nocturnal. It has habit to run away from any nearby sound that occurs or is heard over by it. Swamp deer is an ‘exacting’ species and needs its traditional wintering and feeding grounds to be restored to it. It survives at limited lands in an island habitat surrounded by various land use/ land cover types. overall diet of swamp deer consisted mainly of graminoids (grasses and sedges) and herbs (terrestrial and aquatic). In the protected areas studied earlier, the swamp deer habitat was dominated by grasses, and hence they were reported to be predominantly a grazer who occasionally fed on aquatic plants. The swamp deer is a mixed feeder, consuming a wide variety of food types, and diet composition may vary according to season and food availability. They are selective only in monsoon, the time of abundant food supply, and are non-selective or opportunistic feeders in summer when food is limited. Long-term survival and conservation of herbivores depend on the availability of suitable habitats; hence, protection of the plant species utilized by herbivores is a significant factor in conservation biology.

Behavior
Barasingha can be seen grazing both in the daytime as well as at night. They usually move around in groups, known as herds, consisting of ten to twenty members. However, the size of a herd keeps on changing, depending upon the time of the year. As the breeding or mating season comes, the number of members in a herd goes as high as sixty. The dominance over a herd of female deer is established by a fight amongst the male swamp deer. The mating season of the swamp deer falls in the months of November and December. Their gestation period is around 6 months and they usually give birth to only a single young one. Indian barasingha prefer to give birth in tall grass, where it is possible for them to conceal their baby from predators. They have an acute sense of smell and it serves as their best defense against their hunters. One can find swamp deer in areas with tall grasses or in the reed beds near rivers. They prefer to stay in marshes or swamplands. In the India subcontinent, Barasinghas can be found occupying the forested areas in the Gangetic and Brahmaputra basins.

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