Indian Spotted Chevrotain, Moschiola indica
The Indian spotted chevrotain (Moschiola indica) is an even-toed ungulate that can be found in Nepal and India. It occurs in most areas of India, but if it occurs in northern areas is not yet clear. In 1929, Champion expressed his doubts of this species occurring in Nepal, and most reviews have upheld this belief, despite the local reports of it occurring in there. This chevrotain prefers a habitat within tropical evergreen, humid evergreen, and semi-evergreen forests in peninsular India, but its habitat stretches into montane forests that reach an elevation of 6,069 feet. It is thought that this chevrotain prefers rocky areas that are grass covered, and is most often found alongside streams or rivers.
The Indian spotted chevrotain reaches an average body length of up to twenty-three inches, with an average weight of seven pounds and tail length of around one inch. There is not much information recorded about the Indian chevrotain’s habits, with most information being gathered from word of mouth and visual sightings. It is a nocturnal creature that is typically solitary with the exception of courtship and mothers raising young. During the day, this species rests within rocky crevices or tree hollows, and can occasionally be seen under leaf litter on the forest floor. Its spotted coat acts as camouflage within the leaves, but only if the chevrotain is still. If threatened or approached, it will run away immediately.
Pregnant females of this species will typically give birth to twins after five months, and will choose a well-hidden den at the end of the rainy season in order to protect the young. Common predators of the Indian spotted chevrotain include carnivorous reptiles, mammals, and even birds. Its diet consists of fallen fruits, shrubs, and herbs, with a focus on fruits from trees like Gmelina arborea, Terminalia bellerica, and Garuga pinnata.
The Indian chevrotain is threatened by hunting in most areas of its range. In many if these areas, hunting is conducted in a number of ways including passive and active hunting. Women and children even take part in the hunts, helping to herd the animals towards nets where they will be caught and killed. Much of the meat is used for food, although some meat is sold in markets. Because this species is most often hunted in so many areas, it is thought that hunting is the main reason for its decline. Controlling the hunting of this chevrotain may aid in conserving it. Habitat loss is another threat to the Indian spotted chevrotain, with fragmentation and degradation occurring in many of the forests across its range. Nothing is known, however, about its adaptability to degraded habitats. Habitat conservation has not been of high priority, except within the borders of protected areas.
The Indian spotted chevrotain is listed within Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, and occurs in many well-maintained protected areas. Outside of these areas, conservation is nearly non-existent due to the lack of knowledge about its specific needs. More information is needed pertaining to its habits as a species, as well as the effects of hunting and habitat loss before any legal or conservation efforts can be conducted. The Indian spotted chevrotain appears on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Least Concern.”
Image Caption: Indian Spotted Chevrotain (Moschiola indica) in Singapore Zoo. Credit: Drew Avery/Wikipedia (CC BY 2.0)