Asiatic Lions once used to roamaround the area, stretching from northern Greece, across Southwest Asia, tocentral
India. However, today, the natural habitat of the majestic animal hasbeen reduced to the Gir forests of India only, making the Asiatic Lion almostsynonymous with the Indian Lion. Known scientifically as Panthera Leo persica,the royal animal is depicted on
the National Emblem of India, since itrepresents power, strength and sovereignty.
Asiatic Lion is the second largest 'Big Cat' in the world, after the ferocioustiger. A fully-grown male tiger reaches a length of 1.7 m to 2.5 m (head andbody), with its tail being somewhere around 70 to 105 cm long. The tail of anIndian Lion has a dark tuft
of fur at the end. Its shoulder height is around 1to 1.23 m and the animal weighs between 150 kg and 250 kg. A lioness is smallerin size as compared to the male and reaches a height of 80 to 107 cm. Thelength of the head and the body is 1.7 to 2.5 m, while
the weight is 120 to 180kg.
The males are orange-yellow to dark brown in color, while the females have asandy or tawny color. Males also have a mane, which is usually dark in color,but is rarely seen to be of black color. This characteristic mane is absent inthe females. The mane of an
Asiatic Lion is also shorter than that of anAfrican Lion. However, Indian Lions are much more bushy, with longer tufts ofhair at the end of the tail as well as on the elbow joints, than their Africancousins.
Indian Lions are the only Big Cats that are seen living inlarge groups, known as 'prides'. A typical pride comprises of around 15members, which includes related lionesses,
their cubs and a few males. Thenumber of males in a pride is usually around three and one of them dominatesthe rest of the group, including the other males. In a pride, it is thelionesses that do all the work, right from taking care of the cubs to hunting.The
males only make the first claim on the game hunted by the female.
The lionesses as well as the cubs eat only the leftovers. Male lions establishtheir pride's territorial boundaries by roaring and scent marking and fiercelydefend it. All the members of the pride are closely attached with one another.Infact, majority of the
lionesses remain with a particular pride throughouttheir life. However, a male is expelled from the pride the moment it is 3 yearsold. The few male lions that do not join any group become a major threat to theones with a pride. Asiatic lions usually hunt in
groups and are rarely seenstalking a prey in isolation.
Male lions attain the age of maturity around 5 years of age, while thelionesses become mature after becoming 4 years old. There is no particularmating season of the Indian Lions. They can mate anytime during the entireyear. The gestation period lasts for 100
to 119 days, after which 3 to 4 cubsare born.
Asiatic Lions are found inhabiting open grasslands and forests of India,including scrub jungles.
Indian Lions are carnivorous and depend upon hunting for food. Their preymainly comprises of Deer, Antelope, Wild Boar and Wild Buffalo. At times, lionshave also been observed attacking young hippopotamus and elephants.
Asiatic Lions are highly endangered species and have become extinct from allthe countries of the world, except the Indian subcontinent. In India also, theanimal is found only in the Gir forests of Gujarat.
The last census on the Asiatic Lions was carried out in the year 2006. Itrevealed the population of the species to be somewhere around 359, includingover 50 lions kept in captivity.
Asiatic lions form prides (groups), in which all the work, including hunting,is done by the lionesses. The only work that males do is to make the firstclaim on the prey hunted by the females. Apart from that, they just laze aroundand do nothing.
Bengal tiger is a subspecies oftiger, which is found in the Bengal region of the Indian subcontinent. One ofthe most
common tiger subspecies, it is also found in a number of other Asiancountries, like Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Tibet, etc. Usually RoyalBengal Tigers of India are reddish-brown to rust-brown in color with blackstripes all over. However, a mutation
may result in their color being whitealso. Such a tiger is known as the White tiger. Bengal tiger is the nationalanimal of both the Indian subcontinent as well as Bangladesh.
Bengal tiger has a coat of reddish-brown to rust-brown color, with blackstripes and a white underbelly. The head and body of a male tiger measures 6 to9 feet in length. Its tail may grow as long as 3 feet. An average Royal Bengaltiger has a weight of somewhere
between 400 and 660 pounds (180 and 300 kg),though some tigers have been found to weigh more than 300 kg also. Its shoulderheight may measure upto 3 feet (0.97 m). The maximum length of the skull may bearound 10 to 15 inches (250 to 380 mm).
A female Bengal tiger may grow to a length of 5 to 6 feet inlength (only head and body). Its tail is may be around 2 to 3 feet long.Standing at a shoulder height of
around 2.5 feet, female Bengal tigers mayweigh around 250 to 450 pounds (110 to 200 kg). Their maximum skull length maybe about 8 to 12 inches length. The largest Bengal tiger seen till date weighedclose to 390 kg.
The natural habitat of Royal Bengal tigers comprises of Indian grasslands,subtropical and tropical rainforests, scrub forests, wet and dry deciduousforests and mangroves. The animal is found inhabiting the Asian countries ofIndia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan,
Myanmar and Tibet. In India, Bengal tigersare found mainly in the Bengal region.
Bengal tigers of India survive on a purely carnivorous diet. Their preyprimarily comprises of medium and large-sized animals, like wild boar, deer,gaurs, water buffalo, young Asian Elephants and rhino calves. They may alsostalk small animals, namely hares,
monkeys, langurs and peacocks. At times,Bengal tigers may hunt other predators like leopards, wolves, jackals, foxes,crocodiles and dholes. They can eat upto about 40 kg (84 lb) of meat at a timeand then go without eating for days at a stretch.
Bengal tiger is mainly a solitary creature, which forms alliances only duringthe mating period. It is a nocturnal creature, which prefers to hunt at night.Bengal tigers are extremely good tree climbers and are also quite apt atswimming. Infact, they swim quite
frequently to ambush their prey, which aredrinking or swimming or trying to escape.
Mating usually takes place either during winter season or during spring season.The mating period lasts for 20 to 30 days, during which one can hear loud anddistinct communication calls. The cub stays with the mother and siblings tilltwo years of age, after
which it goes off to wander on its own.
The population of Bengal tigers, throughout the world, is estimated to beapproximately 4,500. Of this, a major proportion (around 3000 tigers) lives inthe Indian subcontinent. Early 1990s saw the population of tigers in Indiadeclining at a fast pace, because
of large-scale poaching as well as habitatloss. Tiger Conservation Program, known as Project Tiger, was started in Indiato improve the status of tigers. However, it success is open to question tilldate.
The major threats to the Bengal tiger comprise of poaching and habitatdestruction. They are hunted for their teeth, nails and skin and even killed fortheir other parts used in East Asian medicines. Urbanization and revengekilling has also contributed to the
deteriorating population of the animal.
White tiger of India is not a separate subspecies of tiger. Rather, it is anindividual specimen of the ordinary tiger, with a different mutation. Intigers, a genetic condition may cause paler coloration, resulting in the birthof a tiger that is white in color.
Most of the cases of white tigers have beenseen in the Bengal tigers. However, once can find such mutation in the captiveSiberian tigers as well as several other subspecies. White tigers havewhite-to-crème colored fur. Their noses are pink and the stripes
on their bodyare gray or chocolate-brown in color. The eyes may be blue, green or amber.
Indian black bear is also known bythe names of Asiatic Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus), Tibetan black bear,Himalayan
black bear and Moon bear. They grow to a length of approximately 4 to6 feet, right from the nose to the tail. The small eyes of the bear, along withits rounded ears, a long snout, a large body, a short tail, and shaggy hair,differentiate it from the other
types of bears. The small shoulder hump, afurry rear instep, a concave facial contour, small and curved claws and narrowears further accentuate the difference. Last but not the least, Asiatic blackbear also has a whitish V-shaped breast patch, not found in
the other bearspecies of India.
The male black bear weighs between 220 and 480 pounds, while the females are110to 275 pounds in weight. The senses of the Himalayan black bears of India aregreatly developed and they boast of almost twice the hearing sensitivitypossessed by humans. Black bears
have colored vision and their eyesight is verysharp. Even their olfactory senses (ability to smell) are highly evolved. Themating season of the Himalayan black bears is usually from late May to earlyJuly. They give birth to two cubs at a time, which stay with
the mother foralmost seventeen months.
Indian black bears are omnivorous. Their diet depends uponthe season as well as the availability of food. The fall season is the time forhaving acorns, chestnuts,
walnuts, and other fatty food. In spring season, theysurvive on a diet of bamboo, raspberry, hydrangea, and other plants, along withrodent's caches of acorns. Summer season is perfect for having raspberries,cherries, grasses and ants. Asiatic black bears are
also known to attacklivestock at times.
Asiatic black bear generally inhabits upper subtropical and lower moisttemperate zones. They are found in East Asia and South Asia, includingAfghanistan, Pakistan, northern India, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, Burma, southernSiberia, Russia, northeastern China, Taiwan
and Japan. In India, Asiatic blackbears are found occupying Himalayan foothills, at a height of less than 3,750m. Black bears are also found in the Arun valley of Nepal, inhabitingSal-Castanopsis, Castanopsis and Rhododendron forests as well as the forestswith
Status and Threats
Asiatic black bear is listed as endangered on the World Conservation Union's(IUCN's) Red List of Threatened Animals. One of the major reasons that havecontributed to the declining population of black bears is rampant deforestationand habitat loss. Asiatic black
bears also face threat from farmers, who killthem in order to protect their livestock.
Other Names : Kala Hiran, Sasin,
Iralai Maan and Krishna Jinka
Speed : Upto 50 mph
Indian black buck is also known by a number of other names like Kala Hiran,Sasin, Iralai Maan and Krishna Jinka. The scientific name of the black buckantelope is Antilope cervicapra and it natural habitat is the Indiansubcontinent. Grass forms the staple diet
of the blackbucks. However, they doeat pods, flowers and fruits as supplements. The average lifespan of the Indiankala hiran is twelve years and at the maximum, they live for sixteen years.Black bucks are hunted by dogs and wolves.
About the Indian Black Buck
The male black bucks grow to a height of 32 inches and weigh somewhere between70 and 95 pounds. Their upper part is covered with either dark brown or blackfur. Chest, belly, inner sides of the legs, muzzle and chin of the males havewhite fur. Even the eyes
are surrounded with white rings. Male black bucks haveringed horns that are up to 28 inches in length and twirl with three to fourturns. When the male blackbucks are born, they are light brown in color and asthey reach the age of three, they turn dark brown
Female black bucks are much smaller than their male counterparts. They arebeige or light brown in color and most of the female blackbucks do not evenhave horns. Even the few females that have horns lack the rings and spiralsthat characterize the male horns.
Black bucks have very sharp eyesight, which,along with their great speed, forms their main defense against the predators.Female black buck antelopes have a gestation period of approximately fivemonths. They generally give birth to two fawns every year, at
a gap of sixmonths.
The fawn of black buck spends the first two weeks after his birth in the grass,between nursing. Only after completing the first two weeks does the fawn jointhe group. Indian black bucks seldom live in isolation, they are found mainlyin groups. The groups can
be either those of the females, comprising of 15 to20 members, mixed groups, bachelor groups or territorial males. The group ofterritorial males dominates all the other groups and inhabits the main grazingareas, along with the female groups.
Apart from India, black buck is found in parts of Pakistan and Nepal. Initiallyin India, the blackbucks were found almost everywhere except for thenortheastern regions. However, today the population of black bucks has becomelimited to parts of Punjab, Rajasthan,
Haryana and Gujarat, along with a fewareas in the Central India. Blackbucks have open plains of India as theirnatural habitat and count amongst the fastest running animals on earth.
They live on open grasslands, dry thorn and scrublands. Black bucks wereintroduced in various parts of the world, including a number of ranches inTexas, in the United States of America. There are also free-ranging populationsof Indian black bucks in Argentina
(Pampas in southern Buenos Aires, Santa Feand Entre Ríos provinces).
Current status of Black Bucks
Black bucks are included in the list of endangered species in India as well asNepal. Two major factors that have contributed to their declining populationare poaching and habitat destruction.
Apart from poaching and habitat destruction, the other threats to blackbucksinclude predation, overgrazing, diseases, inbreeding and hoards of visitors.The flesh and skin of black buck fetches quite a high price in the market,making the animal extremely vulnerable
to hunting. The species is sufferingfrom inbreeding and at the same time, there is the wide scale encroachment bythe humans. Once found easily in the plains of North India, they have now beingrestricted to a few pockets in the country.
Bollywood actor Salman Khan was convicted for killing a black buck, whileshooting for the film 'Hum Saath Saath Hain'. However, the conviction wasstayed some time later.
Also known as : Ship of the Desert
Type : Single-humped
Water retaining capacity : Five liters
The camels found in India are the single-humped camels, also known as theDromedary camels. Long-curved neck, deep-narrow chest and a single humpcharacterize the Indian camel. The hump is used by the camels as reservoir offatty tissues. In times of scarcity,
the tissues are metabolized and the camelreceives energy. The size of the hump is not the same in all the camels. Itdiffers from one camel to another, depending upon its nutritional state. Intimes of starvation, the hump can get reduced to almost a non-existent
Indian dromedary camels have a heavy growth of hair on throat, shoulder, andhump, which is longer than the rest of the body. On an average, the camels inIndia live for a period of 40 to 50 years. They are widely used by the peopleof Rajasthan as a means of
transportation. Infact, the camels are known as the'Ship of the Desert'. They are used for carrying goods as well as people.Indian camels also provide humans with milk, meat, wool, leather and fuel (fromtheir dried dung).
One can mainly find camels in the desert, dry arid regions of the country,especially the state of Rajasthan.
Camels primarily survive on an herbivorous diet, consisting of thorny plantsand dry grasses.
Dromedary camels can be usually seen in groups, consisting of anywhere betweentwo to twenty members. In every group, there is one male member who dominatesthe rest of the members, which comprise of females, sub-adults and young ones.While moving in a group,
one can see the dominant male directing the group fromthe rear, while the female members lead at the front.
Indian camels attain maturity at the age of 4 to 5 years. They give birth toone offspring at a time and the gestation period is around fifteen months. Theyoung ones are raised by their mother for a period of two years after theirbirth, after which they attain
Camels have the ability to endure wide changes in their body temperature aswell as water content. Their body temperature may vary as widely as being 41deg C (106 deg F) in the daytime and being 34 deg C (93 deg F) at night. Onlywhen they cross this limit do
they begin to sweat, thus helping them save uptofive liters of water in one day. Indian camels can cope up with as much astwenty-five percent weight loss, caused by sweating. The thick coat of a camelreflects sunlight and serves as insulation from the heat
of the sand.
Clouded leopards belong to theNeofelis genus and have the scientific name of Neofelis nebulosa. The averagelifespan
of a clouded leopard is 11 years in the wild. However, in cases ofcaptivity, it may go upto 17 years.
A clouded leopard grows to a length of 60 to 110 cm (2 ft to 3 ft 6 in). Itsweigh may be somewhere between 11 and 23 kg (25 lbs and 50 lbs). The coat ofIndian leopards is tan in color and has large, erratically shaped, dark-edgedellipses marks on it. Since
the shape of the ellipses resembles clouds, theanimals have been given the name of 'Clouded Leopards'. Their build is huge andtheir canine teeth are the longest amongst all the cat species.
The short flexible legs of the Clouded leopard of India, along with its largepaws and sharp claws, make it an excellent tree climber. Its tail is almost aslong as its entire body, which serves as a further support in climbing. Thecubs of clouded leopard do
not have dark ellipse, rather their entire body isdark in color.
The clouded leopard is a carnivore and mainly survives on arboreal andterrestrial mammals, primarily consisting of gibbons, macaques and proboscismonkey. Its other prey includes small mammals, deer, birds, porcupines, anddomestic livestock.
No Relation to Leopard
Clouded leopard has no close relation to leopard and comes under a separategenus, known as Neofelis.
Clouded leopards prefer to stay in tropical and subtropical forest of India,with an altitude of over 2,000 meters. One can also find the animal inhabitingIndian mangrove swamps and grassland. Their natural habitat stretches throughsouthern China, the eastern
Himalayas, northeast India, and Southeast Asia. Itis believed that the species has become extinct in Taiwan.
Earlier, the clouded leopard was believed to have four subspecies, namely:
- Neofelis nebulosa brachyurus - Taiwan (believed to be extinct in the wild)
- Neofelis nebulosa diardi - Borneo, Sumatra and Java (absent since Neolithic times)
- Neofelis nebulosa macrosceloides - Nepal to Myanmar
- Neofelis nebulosa nebulosa - Southern China to eastern Myanmar
However, a few years back, moleculargenetic analyses have put a strong case for inclusion of two more species inthis
category, namely Neofelis nebulosa (found in mainland Asia) and Neofelisdiardi (found in Indonesian archipelago).
There is hardly any information about the behavioral traits of the Cloudedleopard in the wild. However, it is believed that they are solitary creatures,which can be seldom seen in groups.
Female Clouded leopard attains maturity after it reaches the age of two years.After the gestation period, which lasts for about 85 to 93 days, it gives birthto cubs, which may be 1 to 5 in number. The cubs get active within 5 weeks ofbirth and become independent
after around 10 months.
Clouded leopard has been listed in the Appendix I by CITES, the Convention onInternational Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. It is anendangered species and its international trade for any reason, except forscientific research, is restricted.
Clouded leopard also finds a mention in theEndangered Species Act of the United States.
The name 'Deer' is given to theruminant mammals belonging to the family Cervidae. They are one of the mostbeautiful
creatures on this earth and extend to approximately 34 species. Maledeer, in India as well as the world, are known as stags, harts, bucks or bulls,depending upon the species to which they belong. While, the females are knownas hinds, does or cows. One can
find deers widely distributed throughout theworld, including the Indian subcontinent. The only continents where deer arenot found are those of Antarctica and Australia.
The 34 species of deer can be divided broadly into two categories, known as theold world group and the new world group. The former comprises of thesubfamilies Muntiacinae and Cervinae, while the latter includes the subfamiliesHydropotinae and Odocoileinae.
Read on to get more information about the Indiandeer.
Axis Deer, also known as Chital Deer or Spotted Deer, is the native animal ofthe Indian subcontinent. It is found very commonly in India and is one of themost beautiful animals in the country. The spotted deer of India was introducedin the state of Texas in
the 1930s. Since that time, axis deer of India hasbecome the most widespread of the entire deer species.
Brow-antlered deer are known by the scientific name of Cervus eldii. They havea number of other names also, like Eld's Deer, Sangai Deer, Thamin Deer andeven Dancing Deer. The maximum lifespan of the Thamin deer of India is only tenyears and the deer has three
Hog Deer is a subspecies of deer, found in the areas stretching from Pakistan,through northern India, to mainland Southeast Asia. A population of the hogdeer was introduced in a number of countries, including Australia, the UnitedStates and Sri Lanka.
Muntjac Deer fall in the category of those deer that are shy and elusive. Theyare also known by the name of Kakad deer or the Barking deer in India. Thereason for this name is their alarm call, which seems very much similar to thebarking of a dog. Indian Muntjac
deer counts amongst the ten subspecies of theBarking deer in the world.
Musk deer comprise of one of the most endangered deer species, not only in theIndian subcontinent, but also in the whole world. They are classified as asubfamily of the Cervidae and have four sub-species.
Sambar Deer are dark brown in color and attain a height of 102 cm to 160 cm (40to 63 inches). The weight of the sambar deer of India may touch 300 kg. Thereare chestnut marks on the rump as well as the underparts. Sambhur deer of Indiaalso have beautiful manes.
However, they are not spotted by birth. The spotsdevelop gradually after birth.
Swamp Deer, also known as Barasingha, is one of the most vulnerable species ofdeer of the Indian subcontinent as well as the world. Presently, one can findthem only in the protected sanctuaries of India. Known by the scientific nameof Cervus duvauceli, the
swamp deep of India derives its name, Barasingha, fromits large antlers.
Indian elephant, known with thescientific name of 'Elephas maximus indicus', is a subspecies of the AsianElephant.
It is mainly found in the Indian subcontinent, that to in the scrubforested areas. The other counties where Asian elephants are found includeBangladesh, Bhutan, Borneo, Cambodia, China, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal,Thailand, Sumatra, and Vietnam. Since Indian
elephants are very huge and cantrample all other creatures, they have no natural enemies. Even lions, hyenas,and tigers attack only the very young elephants and not adults.
Asian elephants of the Indian subcontinent grow to a height of between 8 ft and10 ft. Slightly smaller than the African elephant, they weigh as much as 7,000to 11000 pounds. The feet of an Asian elephant are very large and broad, whichenables it to balance
its enormous weight quite easily. There are thick solesbelow the feet, which absorb shock and cushion legs, when the elephant walksand runs. Their length varies between 216 inches and 252 inches.
The huge and beautiful tusks of the Indian elephant onlyserve as the icing on the cake. These tusks are actually incisor teeth made upof ivory, which may grow upto
5 ft in length. The tusks are used by theelephants in digging for food, clearing debris, and carrying logs. The onlyother animal that has ivory tusks is the walrus.
Though Indian elephants are found everywhere, they prefer the scrub forests ofIndia, with abundant food supply and shady areas. They do not stay at aparticular place for more than a couple of days. One of the reasons for this isthat their diet is very huge
and they have to move to new areas to keep themsupplied with food all the times. At times, you find Asian elephants roamingaround in the Indian jungles. However, this is possible only if there is athere's a meadow or open space (with grass) around. They also
prefer muddyareas in summers, where they can cool off during the hot daytime.
Asian Elephant is herbivorous and survives on bamboo, berries, mangoes,bananas, shrubs, tree foliage, wood, apples, wild rice and coconuts. Only halfof the food eaten by elephants is used by their body. Therefore, it isnecessary for them to eat 330 and 350
pounds of food every day. Their diet alsoconsists of approximately 22 to 30 gallons of water per day.
The groups (herds) of elephants are matriarchal i.e., a female elephant leadsthe herd. Males remain isolated and rarely form groups. They usually join theherd only when the mating season approaches. The members of a herd make use ofa number of gestures and
sounds while communicating with each other. Theirsense of commitment towards the other members of the group is very strong. Afemale elephant protects her young one very fiercely. In her absence, thisresponsibility comes in the hands of the other females of
Male elephants fight to establish rights over a female herd. Indian elephantsreach maturity by the age of twelve. The gestation period is between 630 and660 days and the number of offspring is only one. The baby elephant is known ascalf and usually weighs between
200 and 250 pounds.
Indian elephants are highly intelligent creatures and have acute senses ofhearing and smell. They have large ears and can hear even those sounds thatother animals do not. However, elephants have poor vision and their small eyescan see only upto 60 ft. Even
though they are huge, elephants can easilybalance their weight on two legs, especially while reaching the leaves of atree. Even their sense of smell and sense of taste is very delicate.
There is a significant population of elephants in the following national parksof India.
- Periyar National Park
- Bandipur National Park
- Nagarhole National Park
Indian langurs are lanky,long-tailed monkeys, having bushy eyebrows and a chin tuft. They have a blackface and their
body color ranges from gray to dark brown to golden. The smalland lean body of an Indian langur is complimented with long hands. The termlangur means 'having a long tail' and the name suits the animal perfectly. Thenatural habitat of the langur comprises of
humid forests, mangrove swamps andwooded terrains of India. In the following lines, we have provided informationabout the main Indian langur species:
Golden Langur, or Gee's Golden Langur, is known by the scientific name ofTrachypithecus geei. An Old World monkey, it was first noticed by thescientific community in the 1950s only. In the Indian subcontinent, Goldenlangurs are found mainly in the foothills
of the Himalayas, along theAssam-Bhutan border. The langurs are considered to be sacred by the Himalayanpeople. The coat of Indian golden langurs is covered with rich golden to brightcreamish hair. The face is black and they have a very long tail, which maymeasure
upto 50 cm in length.
Hanuman Langur is believed to be one of the Old World monkeys, belonging to theSemnopithecus Genus. They comprise of 15 subspecies and are terrestrial innature. Earlier hanuman langurs were believed to comprise of a single species.However, now they are recognized
as seven distinct species. Hanuman langur isalso known by the name of Gray Langur, Entellus Langur and Common IndianLangur.
Indian leopard is one of the 8-9valid leopard subspecies found throughout the world. Known by the scientificname
of Panthera pardus, it is the fourth largest of the four 'big cats' of thePanthera genus. At the same time, leopards are also the fifth largest of allcat species. The name 'Leopard' has been derived from a combination of twoGreek and Latin words leo and pard,
'leo' meaning lion and 'pard' meaningpanther. This name was given to the animal since it was initially believed tobe crossbreed of a lion and a panther.
As far as the length of the Indian leopard is concerned, it may be anywherebetween one meters and two meters. Their average weight hovers somewhere around30 kg and 70 kg (65 lbs to 155 lbs). Leopards have a heavy and sturdy body andtheir head is larger in proportion
to their body. The coat of a leopard iscovered with rosettes and they can climb trees with effortless ease. The cubsof a leopard have longer and thicker fur than the adults and even their pelageis grayer.
Indian leopards are nocturnal creatures and are consideredto be one of the most surreptitious animals. They can easily make themselvesundetected, even while living
proximate to human settlements. Leopards are verygood swimmers, but lead a solitary life. Occasionally, one can find themroaming in a group of 3 to 4 animals. They have an acute sense of hearing,along with sharp eyesight.
Leopards are carnivores and eat almost every animal, ranging from monkeys toreptiles to fish. Infact, it is believed that they hunt from amongst 90 speciesof animals. Injured, sickly or struggling leopards, with a shortage of prey,may even hunt humans.
The mating season of leopards depends upon the areas they inhabit. For example,the leopards of India mate throughout the year while those in Siberia mate fromJanuary to February. Their estrous cycle lasts about 46 days and the femaleusually remains in heat
for 6-7 days. They give birth to 2-3 cubs at a time,out of which 1 or 2 survive in most of the cases. Three months after beingborn, the cubs start joining their mother in hunts and live with her for thenext 18 to 24 months.
Till some centuries back, leopards used to roam around in almost all parts ofAfrica and southern Asia. However, today, their habitat has been reduced toSub-Saharan Africa, Asia Minor, the Middle East, India, Pakistan, China,Siberia, much of mainland South-East
Asia and the islands of Java and SriLanka.
Current Status and Threats
The worldwide population of leopards is considered to be around 50,000.Nevertheless, the population of the 'Big Cat' has been decreasing at quite arapid pace in all the countries, including India. The major reasons for thisare their large-scale poaching as
well as destruction of their natural habitatby humans. The subspecies that have been declared as endangered are Amur,Anatolian, Barbary, North Chinese and South Arabian Leopards.
Even though it is said that there are over 30 species of leopard, so far, only8-9 have been found to valid. These are:
- Panthera pardus delacouri (Indochina)
- Panthera pardus fusca (India)
- Panthera pardus japonensis (China)
- Panthera pardus kotiya (Sri Lanka)
- Panthera pardus melas (Java)
- Panthera pardus nimr (Arabia) (Uncertain subspecies)
- Panthera pardus orientalis or Amurensis (Amur Region, border Russia, China, North Korea)
- Panthera pardus pardus (Africa),
- Panthera pardus saxicolor (Central Asia)
Macaques are considered to be thesecond most-widespread species in the world, after humans. Their rangestretches
on from northern Africa to Japan. Macaques comprise of 22 species intoto, out of which seven can be found in India also. Since a number of macaquespecies lack tails, they are also known as apes. Various species of the Indianmacaque are used for experimental
purposes. In the following lines, we haveprovided information about the various species of Indian macaques:
Lion Tailed Macaque
Lion-tailed Macaque is one of the subspecies of macaque, found only in theWestern Ghats of South India. Known by the scientific name of Macaca silenus,it has life expectancy of 20 years in the wild and upto 30 years in captivity.Lion-tailed macaques spend most
of their time on trees and are excellent swimmers.
Long Tailed Macaque
Long-tailed macaque is also known by some other names, like the Crab-eatingMacaque or the Cynomolgus Monkey. It is an arboreal macaque, belonging to theMacaca genus, and has the scientific name of Macaca fascicularis. A native ofthe Southeast Asia, the Crab-eating
macaque of India has also been flown intoouter space.
Stump Tailed Macaque
Indian Stump-tailed macaque, also known as Bear macaque, isknown by the scientific name of Macaca arctoides. It can reach upto a length of70 cm, at the maximum, excluding
the tail that may grow upto 8 cm in length.Indian Stump-tailed macaques weigh 6 to 13 kg and may live as long as 30 years.
A typical macaque, the Rhesus monkey of India is believed to be one of the bestspecies of the Old World monkeys. It is an excellent swimmer and enjoys water.Rhesus macaques are quite comfortable around humans and have the tendency tomove from rural to urban
areas in search of easy food. The average lifespan ofRhesus macaques is approximately 15 years in the wild.
Bonnet Macaque, an Old World monkey, is also known by the scientific name ofMacaca radiata. Found only in India, it has been named so because of itsphysical appearance. Indian Bonnet macaques have a cap-like whorl of hair ontheir head, which radiates outward
from the center. Since the coil of hairresembles a hat, they have been named as Bonnet macaques.
Assam Macaque is a diurnal primate, which inhabits the regions stretching fromNepal to Vietnam and Southern China. It is yellowish to dark brown in color andhas a hairless face. The color of the face is red in case of adults. AssamMacaques are also known by
the name of Himalayan Macaque and Hill Monkeys inIndia.
Arunachal Macaque, scientifically known as Macaca munzala, is a native primateof Arunachal Pradesh state of northeastern India. It is called by the localpopulation as Munzala, meaning monkey of the deep forest. Arunachal Macaqueswere discovered by the Indian
scientists in the year 2004 only.
Other Species of Macaque
The other macaque species, not found in India, comprise of:
M. sylvanus group
- Barbary Macaque, Macaca sylvanus
M. nemestrina group
- Southern Pig-tailed Macaque or Beruk, Macaca nemestrina
- Northern Pig-tailed Macaque, Macaca leonina
- Pagai Island Macaque or Bokkoi, Macaca pagensis
- Siberut Macaque, Macaca siberu
- Moor Macaque, Macaca maura
- Booted Macaque, Macaca ochreata
- Tonkean Macaque, Macaca tonkeana
- Heck's Macaque, Macaca hecki
- Gorontalo Macaque, Macaca nigriscens
- Celebes Crested Macaque or Black "Ape", Macaca nigra
M. fascicularis group
- M. mulatta group
- Formosan Rock Macaque, Macaca cyclopis
- Japanese Macaque, Macaca fuscata
M. sinica group
- Toque Macaque, Macaca sinica
- Tibetan Macaque or Milne-Edwards' Macaque, Macaca thibetana
Red panda is a beautiful animal,found in only some other countries of the world, including the Indiansubcontinent.
Scientifically known as Ailurus fulgens, it is slightly biggerthan the domestic cat and founds a mention in the list of endangered species. Indianred panda bear is quite apt at climbing trees and is mainly herbivorous. It isalso known as the Red fox or the
Common panda and is native to the Himalayanranges of India. A one of its kind animals, Red panda is believed to be aliving fossil. The only other fossil close to the panda is that of Parailurus,which lived 3 to 4 million years ago. The lifespan of a Red Panda
may rangefrom nine years to fourteen years.
Other Names of Indian Red Panda Bear
Cat Bear, Bear Cat, Bright Panda, Common Panda, Fire Fox, Red Fox, Fox Bear,Himalayan Raccoon, Lesser Panda, Nigalya Ponya, Panda Chico, Panda Éclatant,Panda Rojo, Petit Panda, Poonya, Crimson Ngo, Red Cat, Sankam, Small Panda,Thokya, Wah, Wokdonka, Woker and
Red fox grows to a length of 50 to 60 cm. Its tail is verylong; measuring somewhere around 30 to 60 cm. Male pandas are larger than thefemales. The weight of a male
panda is between 4.5 kg and 6.2 kg, while that ofa female is between 3.7 kg and 4.5 kg. The upper part of their body is coveredwith long and soft, reddish-brown fur. On the lower parts of the body, the furis black in color. The face is covered with tear markings
and the tail isringed and very bushy. The short and black legs of a red panda are covered withthick soles, which serve as an insulation from snow.
Common pandas of India are basically nocturnal creatures, which are foundresting in tree branches and hollows during the day. They are solitarycreatures and you will seldom find them roaming around in groups. Except forsome twittering and whistling sounds,
Red pandas hardly communicate with eachother. In case of any threat, they either hurry into an inaccessible rockcolumn or a tree or attack with their razor-sharp claws.
Red panda is usually found in mountainous regions of India, at an altitude ofmore than 1800 m. They are very sensitive to heat and cannot toleratetemperatures over 25 deg C. Red Pandas are native to southeastern Asia,Himalayan Mountains in Nepal, southern Tibet,
China, Bhutan, northeast India,highlands of Myanmar, Gongshan Mountains of Yunnan China and Hengduan Mountainsof Sichuan China.
The diet of Indian red fox bear mainly (2/3rd) consists of bamboo. The reasonfor this is that a panda cannot digest cellulose. The other constituents of itsdiet include berries, fruit, mushrooms, roots, acorns, lichen, grasses, youngbirds, eggs, small rodents
and insects. When they are in captivity, red pandaswillingly eat meat also. The diet of a red panda contains a very small amountof calories and because of this reason; the animal rarely does anything otherthan sleeping and eating.
Red pandas of India attain maturity only at the age of 2 to 3 years. Theirmating period stretches on from the end of December to the middle of February.The gestation period lasts for 112 to 158 days, after which the female givesbirth to, between one and four,
young ones. Usually the young ones are bornduring the period starting at the end of May and lasting upto the beginning ofJuly. Even the timing of birth of all the young ones is more or less the same,between 4:00 pm and 9:00 am. The nest of an Indian red panda
bear is generallylocated in a hollow tree or a rock column. Only five months after their birthdo the young ones become totally independent. As the next mating seasonapproaches, the mothers abandon their babies.
Indian Red panda bear is under great threat of extinction. The main reason forthe declining population is the disintegration of its natural habitats, alongwith its specific diet needs. At the same time, Indian red fox animal is alsohunted in large numbers for
its highly valued fur and tail. In 1996, the IUCNdeclared the Common pandas as threatened species. However, now they have beenput in the list of endangered species. The exact population of the Common pandais not known, but it is estimated to be less than 2500.
- Western Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens fulgens)
- Styans Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens styani)
Red pandas can be found in the wildlife sanctuaries of Darjeeling, West Bengaland Sikkim, along with the Namdapha National Park of Arunachal Pradesh.
Indian Rhinoceros holds thedistinction of being the fourth largest animal, after the three elephantspecies. Known
by the scientific name of Rhinoceros unicornis, the animal isfound in only two places in the world, Assam (India) and Nepal. The GreatIndian rhinoceros is a brilliant swimmer and has an acute sense of smell and hearing.Its maximum speed reaches 55 km/h, that
to for a short period of time.
The only drawback of the Indian rhino, also known as the Great One-HornedRhinoceros, is that its eyesight is quite poor. The sheer size of the rhinoshas resulted in a few natural enemies. They may be attacked by tigers, butthere are hardly any recorded incidents
of a tiger killing a full-grown Indianrhino. However, they may kill unguarded calves at times.
Rhinos have a very thick coat, which is silver-brown incolor and have the minimal of body hair. The shoulders as well as the upperpart of the legs have wart-like bumps
throughout. Male rhinos are larger thanthe females, with their weight being somewhere around 2260 to 3000 kg. Theaverage height of an Indian rhinoceros is 1.70 m (5.7 feet) and its averagelength hovers around 3.50 m (11.7 feet). As the name suggests, the GreatOne-Horned
Rhinoceros has a single horn, which grows to a length of 20 to 101cm. It is present in both males as well as females and starts growing around 6years after birth.
The Great Indian rhinoceros is usually found inhabiting the tall grasslands andforests in the foothills of the Himalayas. Presently, it is found only in India(Assam) and Nepal.
Indian Rhino is basically a lonely and solitary creature and can be seldomfound forming groups. The only exception to this behavior consists of groups ofmothers and calves and breeding pairs. A male rhino of India usually has a homerange, within which it lives.
The range usually stretches from 2 to 8 sq km andmay overlap with that of some other male.
During mating season, dominant males will not tolerate any other male crossingtheir territory. If such a thing happens, dangerous fights are bound to ensue.Indian rhinoceros are mainly diurnal creatures and are quite active during theday. During daytime, you
can spot them wallowing in lakes, rivers, ponds, andpuddles. Through this process, they try to cool themselves.
The Great Indian Rhinoceros is herbivorous. Its diet mainly consists ofgrasses, leaves, aquatic plants and fruits.
The age of maturity of the Indian rhinoceros differs in males and females. Amale rhino starts breeding at the age of nine, while a female rhino attains maturityafter reaching five years of age only. When the mating season of a femaleapproaches, she whistles
to inform the males about the same. The mating seasonis also a season for dangerous fights between the male rhinos, which maysometimes result in death.
The gestation period is 16 months, after which a single calf is born. Theinterval between the births of two calves is around 3 years. A young rhinostays with its mother for several years after the birth.
Indian rhinos found a mention in the list of the endangered species. Theirpopulation had been reduced to less than 100 in the early 20th century. Though,since then their population has increased, they are still under a threat ofextinction. Presently, the population
of the Indian rhinoceros is believed tobe less than 25000.
Threats and Protection
One of the major threats facing the rhinos of India is their large-scalepoaching for the horn. The other threats include habitat deterioration. TheIndian and Nepalese governments have taken a number of steps, with the help ofthe World Wildlife Fund (WWF), to
protect the Great Indian Rhinoceros.
The Great One-Horned Rhinoceros is mainly found in the following national parksof India:
- Kaziranga National Park (Assam)
- Manas National Park (Assam)
Snow leopard is a native animal ofmountain ranges of central and southern Asia, including India. It is also knownas
Ounce and has a scientific name of "Panthera uncia". Snow leopardscan live for a maximum of 18 years in then wild. In captivity, their lifespanincreases to 20 years.
There is some disagreement regarding the genus to which the snow leopardbelongs. Some taxonomists believe that it belongs to the genus Panthera, whileothers believe that it has own genus, Uncia.
No Connection with Leopard
Despite the common misconception, the snow leopard has no relation with theleopard. Infact, some people believe that it has a close connection withcheetah. Both of them show similar physical traits to quite an extent and bothare incapable of roaring.
The coat of a snow leopard of India is gray in color and iscovered with ringed spots and rosettes of black or brown. The tail is stripedand the fur is soft as well
as beautiful. The tail as well as the bottom partof the paws of snow leopards is covered with fur. Snow leopards may weigh upto75 kg and the length of their head and body may reach 59 inches. Their tail isalso quite long and measures between 31 and 39 inches.
The head of a male snowleopard is much squarer and wider than that of the female.
During summer season, snow leopards prefer to stay either above the tree lineon mountainous meadows or in the rocky regions of the Indian subcontinent,which are upto 6000 m in height. Winter season is the time for them to comedown to an altitude of somewhere
around 2000 m. The home range of a snowleopard varies to quite an extent. For example, in Nepal, they need only 30-65sq km to survive, while, in Mongolia, their range increase to 1,000 sq km. Incentral and south Asia, they are found in Afghanistan, Bhutan,
China, India,Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan,and Uzbekistan.
We mostly find snow leopards leading isolated lives and rarely forming anygroups. Usually, they kill animals, which are thrice as big as they are.
The mating season of the snow leopard extends from January to May and thegestation period is usually of 98 to 103 days.
Snow leopards are carnivores and have a diet consisting of ibex, bharal,markhor, urial, boars, marmots and other small rodents.
Snow leopards have been listed under CITES, Appendix I, Endangered Species Act.Their total population (throughout the world) ranges between 3,500 and 7,000 inthe wild and 600 to 700 being in the various zoos of the world.
Snow leopards are mainly found in the following national parks of India:
- Hemis National Park, East Ladakh
- Nanda Devi National Park, Uttarakhand (UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site)
- Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand
- Snow leopard is the national symbol of Tatars and Kazakhs
- Snow leopard is the symbol of the Girl Scout Association of Kyrgyzstan
- The official seal of the city of Almaty has snow leopard on it
- Tatarstan's coat of arms also has snow leopard on it
- There is a Snow Leopard award, which was given to Soviet mountaineers who scaled all five of the Soviet Union's 7000 m peaks.
Striped hyena belongs to theHyaenidae family and is scientifically known as Hyaena hyaena. Strongly relatedto the
Brown hyena, it is basically a solitary creature. The average lifespanof striped hyenas hovers somewhere around 10 to 12 years in the wild. When keptin captivity, they can live longer also.
The body coat of a striped hyena is covered with grayish-brown fur. Its legs,torso, head and back have black vertical stripes all over, while, muzzle andears are totally black. There is also a medium sized mane on its neck,shoulders as well as the back. When
threatened, a striped hyena erects the hairon its mane, making itself look 30-40 percent bigger than it actually is. Thisactivity is also used in displays against other striped hyenas.
The underside of its neck is covered with a black throat patch. The legs arequite long and the tail is feathery, reaching the hocks. Striped hyena of Indiamay grow to a length of 4 to 5 feet (1.2 to 1.45m). It stands tall at ashoulder height of 2.2 to 2.5 feet
(66 to 75cm). Striped hyenas weigh between57 and 90 pounds (26 and 41 kg). The size of a male and a female striped hyenadoes not differ too much. Quite similar to a number of other hot climateanimals, their ears also radiate heat.
Striped hyenas are found occupying the tropical savanna,grasslands, semi-deserts, scrub forests and woodlands. In the Indiansubcontinent, they inhabit open country,
seashores as well as forests. Theirgeographical range also stretches on form Morocco and Senegal to Tanzania,across Asia Minor, the Arabian Peninsula, all the way to Iran and Pakistan,apart from India. Striped hyenas are believed to have become extinct in
Europe.However, they can be sporadically spotted in Anatolia and Turkey.
Striped Hyenas are mainly carnivores, but may eat fruit also. Their preyincludes insects and small animals like mice, mammalian carrion, tortoise,porcupine and wild pigs. They may also hunt domestic animals, like goats,sheep, donkeys, and horses.
Striped hyenas are nomads by nature and move from one water hole to another.Still, they never venture more than 6 miles from their previous water hole.Hyenas are not gregarious creatures and live mostly in isolation. At times, onecan find them congregating
in small family groups. Striped hyenas of India canbe frequently seen seizing and shaking each other by the neck in mock fightingrituals.
Female striped hyenas attain maturity when they reach 2-3 years of age. Theirestrous cycle lasts for 45 to 50 days and they can mate throughout the year.The gestation period is 88 to 92 days and the number of young ones may beanywhere from 1 to 5. The usual
number of cubs is two and they start eatingmeat after 30 days.
Relationship with other predators
Striped hyenas of India are basically scavengers, which thrive on the kills ofother predators. This habit of theirs results in a confrontation with the otherpredators. In India and the Middle East, the striped hyenas may, at times,enter into a conflict with
the wolves also. Striped hyenas may be able todominate very young tigers also.
Striped hyenas are included in the list of 'Near Threatened' species. The exactpopulation of the striped hyenas of India is not known.
Striped hyena faces no threat from natural predators, since it does not haveone. Their main threat is from humans, with whom they constantly come intoconflict. Striped hyenas may make human beings, mainly children, and livestocktheir target. This is the main
reason why they are poisoned and trapped bypeople. Striped hyena of India is also poached since its parts are believed tohave curative properties. Last but not the least, it is facing the threat ofhabitat destruction.
- Hyaena hyaena barbara
- Hyaena hyaena hyaena
Indian wild ass, also known as khur,is one of the subspecies of wild ass belonging to southern Asia. Its scientificname
is Equus hemionus khur. Wild ass of India has an average age of 20-25years.
Indian wild ass is quite dissimilar in appearance from the African wild ass.However, its looks are quite similar to that of the mule. The coat is usuallysandy in color, but may vary from reddish gray to beige, to pale chestnut. Themane is dark and erect and
it goes from the back of the head to the neck area.Following the mane is a dark brown stripe that moves along the back of theanimal to the root of its tail.
Asiatic wild ass, belonging to India, may attain a body length of upto 260 cmand shoulder height of around 120 cm. Its tail is quite slim and slender andmay gain a length of approximately 80 cm. The tail is covered with brownishyellow hair. The body weight
of Indian wild ass hovers somewhere around 250 kg.The mouth is slender and the ears are long and pointed. One of the fastestanimals in the world, it can attain the maximum speed of 50 km per hour.
The natural habitat of Asiatic wild ass comprises of salinedesert, grassland in arid zone and shrub land of India. Its geographical rangeextends from western India,
through Sind and Baluchistan, Afghanistan, andsoutheastern Iran. Presently, the animal is mainly found in the little Rann ofKutch and its surrounding areas (lying in the Greater Rann of Kutch) in theGujarat province. Indian wild ass also inhabits Surendranagar,
Banaskantha,Mehsana, and other Kutch districts.
Male wild ass, known as stallion, is found either living alone or in a smallgroup of 2 to 3 members. However, family groups are quite common.
Indian wild ass is usually seen grazing between the period of dawn and dusk. Itfeeds mainly on grass, leaves and fruits of plant, crop, Prosopis pods, andsaline vegetation.
Mating in case of Indian wild ass usually takes place in the rainy season. Thestallions fight against each other for the possession of the female. The age ofmaturity is 2 to 3 years. When the mating season of a female wild ass, known asmare, approaches, she
leaves the group and goes with the stallion. They livetogether for a few days and then, come back to join the group. The gestationperiod lasts for approximately eleven months, after which a single calf isborn.
The population of Indian wild ass is declining at a fast pace. One of thereasons for this is that it became a victim of a disease known as surra in 1958and 1960, which resulted in the death of many animals. In November and Decemberof 1961, the outbreak of South
African Horse Sickness led to a further declinein the population. The other threats include habitat destruction because ofencroachment, excessive grazing, etc.
Wild boar is considered to be thewild antecedent of the domestic pig of the Indian subcontinent. It belongs tothe
Suidae biological family, which also includes the Warthog and Bushpig ofAfrica, the Pygmy Hog of northern India and the Babirusa of Indonesia. Indianwild boars are also quite closely related to peccary or javelina of North,Central and South America.
The thick coat of the wild boar of India is grayish-black in color and iscovered with bristle-like hair. It can grow upto a length of 6 feet and mayweigh as much as 440 lb (200 kg). The features of a wild boar are quite similarto that of a pig. It has a prominent
ridge of hair, which match the spine. Thetail is short and straight and the snout is quite narrow.
The most noticeable as well as most distinguishing feature of the wild boarscomprise of a pair of extended canines. These canines grow both upward as wellas outward. Indian wild boars possess an acute sense of smell. Even theireyesight and hearing power is
Wild boars can be found roaming around in groups, known assounders. The number of sows, in a characteristic sounder, is two or three andrest of the members are the
young ones. A typical sounder comprises of 20animals on an average. In exceptional cases, the membership of a sounder may goupto 50 also. Adult males join a sounder only during the mating period and forthe rest of the year they prefer to stay alone. Indian
wild boars are basicallynocturnal creatures, which forage from dusk to dawn. When surprised orattacked, they may get aggressive.
Wild boars eat anything and everything, including nuts, berries, carrion,roots, tubers, refuse, insects, small reptiles, etc. Young deer and lambs mayalso form a part of their diet.
Wild boar is found inhabiting the woodlands of Central Europe, MediterraneanRegion (including North Africa's Atlas Mountains) and most of Asia (includingIndia).
There is no fixed mating period of the wild boars of India. However, wheneverit takes place, it results in a formal contest between the males to decide thedominant male. The winner gets to mate with the female boar. The maturityperiod is one year and gestation
period lasts for four months. A female wildboar usually gives birth in the spring season and the litter normally consistsof 4 to 6 cubs.
The population of Indian wild boars is declining at a fast pace. The reasonsfor this are large scale poaching as well as habitat destruction. At some pointof time, Indian sub-continent consisted of 6-7 species of wild boar. However,today only one of them is
- Sus scrofa scrofa (North Africa, Europe, and Asia)
- Sus scrofa ussuricus (North Asia and Japan)
- Sus scrofa cristatus (Asia Minor to India)
- Sus scrofa vittatus (Southeast Asia to Indonesia)
- Sus scrofa taiwanus (Taiwan)