Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bisons of Kanha

Bos Gaurus
The coarse grazer belonging to Family Bovidae is one of the most impressive mammals of Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh. The animal is found widespread in intact forest habitats where interference of man is minimal. Like the tiger bison or gaur as it is called in Hindi cannot tolerate human interference and usually becomes locally extinct due to disease carried by livestock of the settlers. Competition for food is another factor in the species loosing ground.   

This did not happen in Kanha, thanks to large area and mountainous region that gave these animals enough space. The Barasingha suffered the most with extensive loss of habitat. The bison is a local migratory animal and sticks to its forests in vicinity. 

The bisons are less seen during the winters in the plains and meadows of Kanha. The coarse grazers get enough to forage on the  table top mountains and are content to stay there in the dense confines. But as water levels decreases with passing off of winter, and leaf shedding begins these animals start migrating to lower areas. Herds can be seen in forest confines and the grassy meadows during the early morning hours and late evenings as the heat increases.   

They are sighted from February in larger numbers. The animal is a gregarious species which live in small heards to larger herds of 40 to 50 heads. The matriarchal system prevails with dominant males keeping to the fringes or away from the herd in non breeding period.  The herd consists of  young females, males and fawns. 

In winters mating occurs on hillside and the fawn are born during May onwards. The dominant males often engage in a tussle and various display of aggression before courtship to take control of the herd with female in estrous. 

The population increased substantially after trans location of villages in the core zone. The species suffered extensive loss after my visit in 1976. This was due to foot and mouth disease or rinderpest and many animals died during the prevalence. In recent times gaur can be seen in Kisli Range as well as in the buffer zone around Indri Camp. Herds now cross over at the road to Mukki near the villages in the periphery. These animals are always susceptible to disease prevalence among the live stock there.     

The conservation efforts as whole has paid of  for this species. The increasing number would need new grounds for  the gaur and these would be the buffer. The forest canopy is not dense here and the region  is open to man animal conflict.