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This handsome member of the deer family is also one that was closest to extinction a few decades ago. Although their numbers have now revived, it is still an endangered species and is spread across central and northern India only in small congregations. It is a medium size member of the deer family. Smaller than the Sambar Deer, it weighs in at approximately 180 kgs once fully grown with a height nearing 130 cms . Their famous antlers , by the time they attain adulthood, develop more than 12 points and attain lengths up to 75 cms . Their life expectancy ranges between 20 - 30 years . Although quite similar in appearance, there are three species with their own unique traits. The antlers of the species found in northern India have a shinier and lighter appearance.
Although once found in many forests across the entire country, the Swamp Deer is now mainly confined to National Parks Dudhwa ( Northern India), Manas , Kaziranga (North Eastern India), Kanha and Indravati ( Central India).
They are sociable animals and are often found as large herds grazing in the grasslands of wildlife reserves. The best time to try and spot them is early morning and evening when they emerge to feed .
Habitat & Diet
Their main habitat however still remains dry and wet swampy grasslands . During the breeding season , the males' coloration takes on a darker hue and appears a much darker brown when compared to that of the rest of the year. The photograph above was taken during this season. It is also easy to know that you have arrived during the mating season from the unmistakable long drawn out mating calls that carry loudly across the grasslands. These sounded more like "Tarzan yells" to us!
Their main diet consists of grass which they feed on in the vast grasslands of central and northern India . Some of them have also been seen eating grass from the bed of wet swamps . To do this they have to at times completely submerge their heads and often come out with strands suspended from their antlers.
The breeding season of the Swamp deer is during the winter months of November and December. They have a gestation period of 6 months and have a litter of mostly just one young . This birth takes place mostly in tall grass where the vulnerable baby is concealed from predators. These animals depend largely on their acute sense of smell to forewarn them about approaching dangers. The species found in central India at reserves such as Kanha N.P. have also adapted to moving into the Sal tree forest from the grasslands.
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