The Indian Gazelle or Chinkara is a type of gazelle species native to South Asia, in the countries of Pakistan and mostly in India. It belongs to the Bovidae family. The gazelles are very shy and nervous in nature and do not travel very far. The Chinkaras are revered and considered sacred by the Bishnoi community of Rajasthan that explains the large population of this animal there.
INDIAN GAZELLE FACTS
|Scientific Name||Gazella benettii|
|Lifestyle||Solitary or in small group of four|
|Lifespan||12 to 15 years|
|Top speed||50 to 60 km/h|
Physical Characteristics: They are smaller in built compared to other species of deer and their life span is also relatively shorter than other species of deer. The coat is covered with smooth and glossy fur which is reddish brown in color during summer, while in winter the shade of color becomes lighter, almost white. The reddish color of their coat helps them in camouflaging in the grassland in order to hide from predators. They weigh around only 23 to 25 kg. The height generally goes up to 65 cm and the horn grows up to about 39 cm. They grow up to a length of about 30 to 40 cms. The sides of the face have dark chestnut stripes from the corner of the eye to the muzzle. The females have soft horns or are missing. Their tail is covered with crest of black hairs. The Indian Gazelle is the smallest antelope found in Asia.
Habitat and Habit: The Indian Gazelle generally prefers to live in the grasslands, dry scrub areas, desert, and semi – desert, sand dunes, open woodlands and dry areas. They are generally found in areas that have an annual rainfall of 150 to 750 mm. They generally reside in areas with an elevation of about 1524 m. In India, they live safely in more than 80 protected areas. In India, the Chinkara is found in the plains and low hills of Punjab, Rajasthan, Central India and the Deccan Plateau. They can be easily spotted in
- Gir National Park
- Panna National Park
- Ranthambore National Park
- Desert National Park
- Bandhavgarh National Park
They are very agile and swift in nature but they are also very shy and nervous in nature and generally avoid human encounters. One of the specialties of this animal is that they can go without water for days and practically survive on dew and water obtained from leaves and plants. They run in leaps and bounds and can jump up to a height of about 20 to 25 feet. When in danger, they stamp their fore foot and produce a sneeze like hiss.
Diet: The Chinkara is an herbivore and feed on grass, leaves and fruits. They have nocturnal feeding habits and are very active at the onset of sunset. The Indian Gazelle also feeds upon pumpkin and melon seeds and thus helps in seed dispersal.
Predators: They are small in size and hence they are hunted by many big wild animals in the jungles. The primary predators are
- Bengal tiger
- Indian Leopard
- Golden Jackals
- Asian Cheetah
- Village dogs
- Crested Hawk Eagles
- Indian Wolves
Reproduction: There are two breeding seasons throughout the year. One begins at the beginning of September and another occurs at the beginning of March. Female take care of their off springs for about 2 months or up to about 12 months.
Threat: The Chinkara is threatened by extensive hunting for illegal meat trade. Apart from that, due to agriculture and industrial expansion have led to habitat loss and expansion. In India the population of the Indian Gazelle was found to be one million out of which 80,000 were present in the Thar Desert.
Conservation Act: In 1994, the species was considered as vulnerable by the IUCN list but with timely conservation efforts, the population has recovered and now they are considered as species of low concern. In 1972, Gazella bennettii was under Schedule I of Wildlife Protection Act of India. In Rajasthan there are about 25 protected areas for Indian Gazelles. However, the area where the Vishnoi community resides has the highest density of their population. All these protected areas come under non – shooting zone. The Ecology and Rural Development Society of India is continuously doing extensive research on Indian gazelles. From time to time anti – poaching activities are executed to keep hunters at bay. Workshops are also conducted in order to bring awareness amongst people, about the importance of Indian Gazelle in ecosystem and society.