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Moschiola indica

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA MAMMALIA CETARTIODACTYLA TRAGULIDAE

Scientific Name: Moschiola indica
Species Authority: (Gray, 1852)
Common Name/s:
English Indian Chevrotain, Indian Mouse Deer, Indian Mousedeer, Indian Spotted Chevrotain
Synonym/s:
Meminna indica Gray, 1852
Meminna indica Gray, 1843 [nomen nudum]
Taxonomic Notes: Moschiola indica was recently segregated by Groves and Meijaard (2005) as a species separate from M. meminna, which they reserved for animals from parts of Sri Lanka. This segregation is founded upon a Phylogenetic Species Concept. Many sources up to 2005 referred to Indian animals as part of M. meminna (seen as the only species in the genus). Prior to Groves and Grubb (1987), the taxa within Moschiola were commonly referred to as Tragulus meminna. It is therefore under these two names (Moschiola meminna and Tragulus meminna) that most information on the species can be found.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor/s: Duckworth, J.W., Hem Sagar Baral & Timmins, R.J.
Reviewer/s: Black, P.A. & Gonzalez, S. (Deer Red List Authority)
Justification:
This chevrotain has a range too large and a population too large for listing as anything other than Least Concern under any range or population criterion. Population trends have not been quantified but it seems highly unlikely that declines (if such are indeed occurring) could come near enough even to warrant listing as Near Threatened. This is based on the relative stability of habitat within its range and the continued common status in the few areas where hunting practices have been studied. Until there is some actual population monitoring, no more informed assessment will be possible.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The Indian Chevrotain inhabits most of the India, from Tamil Nadu and Kerala in the far south, north to at least 24°N, i.e. Mandla, Hoshangabad, Palamau and near Udaipur (Rajasthan) at 24°04′N (Tehsin 1980, Groves and Meijaard 2005). The northern limit has been muddled in past and current literature. Champion (1929) strongly doubted the occurrence of chevrotains in Nepal, and originated a now commonly-held view its northern limit lay at about 24°N. Most of the subsequent major reviews have followed this and have thus omitted Nepal from the species’s range (Corbet and Hill 1992; Groves and Meijaard 2005; Grubb 2005); this overlooks several valid records from the country. Hodgson (1841) stated that chevrotains occurred at Vulgo Bijay in the terai. Many of Hodgson’s Nepal specimens came from Sikkim and Bhutan, outside the modern boundary of Nepal (see e.g. Hinton and Fry 1923), but there are no indications that any species of chevrotain occurs in these areas, so this standard explanation cannot, therefore, be used for the presence of the species in Hodgson’s Nepal list, and it was therefore retained as a Nepal inhabitant by Hinton and Fry (1923). Hodgson’s statement was vindicated by Mitchell and Punzo (1976), who obtained a specimen (a partial skeleton from a decomposed carcase, supplied by hunters) and saw two live wild chevrotains in Sal Shorea robusta forest at Mahadeva, Banke District (28°13′N, 81°56′E; 220 m asl), and observed a live wild chevrotain in tall elephant grass at Tamispur, Nawal Parsi District (27°34′N, 83°57′E; 90 m asl) on 15 February 1968. Mitchell and Punzo’s (1976) records were simply overlooked, not rejected, by Groves and Meijaard (2005) (C. P. Groves pers. comm. 2008) and presumably the other reviews. Other Nepal records include a live animal displayed some years ago in the Nepal zoo collected from the country’s lowlands (K. Shah per Hem Sagar Baral pers. comm. 2008), a specimen held at the Kathmandu Natural History Museum labelled ‘West Nepal below 300 m’, and several reports from foresters of direct sightings in the lowlands (Hem Sagar Baral pers. comm. 2008). Suitable habitat, which would always have been limited in the country, has been mostly lost (Hem Sagar Baral in litt. 2008).
Countries:
Native:
India
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: This chevrotain has a poorly-known population status. Raman (2004) synthesised the following: the Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve at the extreme south of the Western Ghats appears to be one of the best localities for the species and may represent a major population stronghold (personal observations). The species may also be frequently met with in most other protected areas along the Western Ghats such as the Periyar Tiger Reserve, Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary, Silent Valley, Mudumalai-Bandipur-Nagarahole, Bhadra, and Kudremukh. Krishnan (1972) noted that the species is seen almost commonly around Karwar and in some forests of south India, having also observed the species in the Simlipal hills of Orissa in the east. Along the Eastern Ghats populations occur in the forest tracts along the Nallamal hills and Srisailam Nagarjuna Sagar. To this can be added further support for it being regularly encountered in the Western Ghats at sites surveyed by Kumara and Singh (2004).

In Nepal, it would always have had a small population, restricted to the lowlands, Siwalik hills and Bhabar area. Hem Sagar Baral (pers. comm. 2008) traced a number of records from Nepal, but none was from recent years (see Distribution). This species may now be very rare there, or even extinct, but it would be premature to consider it so, because there has been no recent search specifically for the species. The hills of the Chitwan valley are the most likely place the species might persist in Nepal, because habitat here is protected and relatively little encroached (Hem Sagar Baral in litt. 2008).
Population Trend: Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Raman (2004) synthesised the following: the Indian Chevrotain is found in tropical deciduous and moist evergreen and semi-evergreen forests of the Peninsular Indian hills, plains, and plateaux, extending into montane forests up to around 1,850 m elevation (Prater 1971, personal observations). It is reported to favour rocky habitats (MacDonald and Norris 2001), grass-covered rocky hill-sides and forest (Prater 1971), and it often occurs along forest streams and rivers (personal observations). It also occurs in some anthropogenically disturbed areas, such as plantations, rural gardens, and degraded forest. Very little is known about the ecology and behaviour of the Indian Chevrotain with much of the information being in the form of anecdotal observations and sight records (Prater 1971, Krishnan 1972, Paulraj 1995, Gokula 1997). Like other forest ruminants, adults are mostly solitary except at the time of courtship. During the day, chevrotains stay concealed in dens that may be in hollows at the base of trees or in rocky crevices. They are also reported to be able to climb up sloping tree boles (Krishnan 1972). Occasionally, they may also be encountered resting in the leaf litter of the forest floor where their dappled pelage acts as an effective camouflage as long as the animal stays immobile. If one chances upon it while it is resting thus, the animal allows the observer to approach quite close before suddenly rushing off into the forest undergrowth or into a well-chosen hiding spot. Their activity appears to be mostly crepuscular and nocturnal. Chevrotains are of a shy and retiring disposition, avoiding open areas and ready to scurry away at the least hint of alarm. They forage for herbs and shrubs and fallen fruit from the forest floor. Krishnan (1972) noted that the Indian Chevrotain eats the fruits of species such as Terminalia bellerica, Gmelina arborea, and Garuga pinnata, common in the deciduous forests of south India. The species is reported to have a gestation period of around five months (MacDonald and Norris 2001). Females are reported to bring forth their young, usually twins, in their dens or hides, at the end of the rains and commencement of the cold season (Prater 1971). It is prey for a wide range of carnivorous mammals (especially leopard Panthera pardus) and reptiles, and even birds. Some of the information in this section quoted from secondary references such as Prater (1971) may have been drawn originally from Sri Lankan populations, not here considered conspecific with M. indica of India and Nepal.
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Raman (2004) synthesised the following: Indian Chevrotains are among the most frequently hunted animals in the forests where they occur. Hunting of them by indigenous and settled local communities is widespread along the Western and Eastern Ghats. Madhusudan and Karanth (2000, 2002) give an account of the techniques used for hunting chevrotains by people such as the Kuruba in tropical forests of Karnataka near and within Nagarahole and Kudremukha. Active hunting uses hunting dogs to locate and flush the animals and a club/machete to kill them, while passive means include deadfall traps. Much of the hunting is for the pot, although wild meat is often sold in local markets in many places. This is one species that even women and children join with men in hunting during the day. The team of hunters beat bushes and flush animals toward nets held by people where the animals are caught and killed. In addition, low wire snares with many nooses may be placed along the ground across trails to catch passing chevrotains. In the Dakshin Kannada district, 78% of 49 hunters interviewed by Madhusudan and Karanth (2002) ranked the chevrotain as the species they hunted the most. They also believed that this had led to depressed abundance of the species in areas with hunting. Three-quarters of the hunters themselves identified hunting as the most important factor for the decline in abundance. The control of hunting therefore may be required for the conservation of the species. Raman (2004) provided no empirical information on habitat relevant to conservation. As a forest-associated species, forest conversion has obviously greatly reduced the area holding Indian Chevrotain over the past few millenia. Compared with most of the tropical world, outright forest conversion in its range has been low within recent decades: more serious has been degradation and fragmentation of what remains, but the Indian Chevrotain’s adaptability to fragmentation and degradation has never been studied. In Nepal, the Siwalik hills and Bhabar area that lie just north of the Gangetic plain presumably formed the northernmost range limit. These areas remained little disturbed until recently mainly because of malaria infestation and low quality land for cultivation. With the quashing of malaria, habitat conversion was rapid and now such habitat persist only within protected areas (Hem Sagar Baral pers. comm. 2008).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The species is listed (as M. meminna) in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act (1972) and occurs in numerous protected areas throughout its range (Raman 2004). Several of these are well secured from damaging levels of hunting and from serious habitat encroachment. Conservation of the species outside well-secured protected areas is hampered by the almost total lack of knowledge of its specific conservation needs. As stated by Raman (2004), “Habitat and ecological requirements for the conservation of the Indian Chevrotain require field research that has hitherto been lacking. Radio-telemetry studies of home range and social organisation and behavioural-ecological studies on habitat preferences and use, foraging ecology, the effects of habitat alteration and degradation, and on reproduction and population dynamics are sorely needed to develop a more realistic and comprehensive picture of the future conservation prospects of this species”. Perhaps most urgent is that the actual population-level effects of the heavy hunting documented by various studies are unknown, and therefore the urgency to address these illegal practices is unclear.
Citation: Duckworth, J.W., Hem Sagar Baral & Timmins, R.J. 2008. Moschiola indica. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 17 April 2014.
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