Indian Spotted Chevrotain (Mouse Deer), Nagarahole

by S Karthikeyan
Giri Cavale

Chosen as 'Picture of the Week'

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.

The Indian Spotted Chevrotain (Moschiola meminna) is often referred to as the Mouse Deer. However in recent times, Indian Spotted Chevrotain seems to be the preferred usage.

This diminutive animal is nocturnal in habit, making it very difficult to see one in daylight. Occasionally a chevrotain may be seen late in the evening or early in the morning if it ventures out into the open like the one in this image, photographed one foggy morning near the Kabini backwaters in Nagarahole. Invariably, they are seen by sheer chance – when one is disturbed from its hiding place. The mottled markings on their body provide them excellent camouflage, helping them to hide in their environment, especially if the animal stays immobile. They are so well camouflaged that many people, who may have been visiting forests regularly, would have seen a tiger or a leopard but not a chevrotain!

The Indian Spotted Chevrotain is a denizen of evergreen and deciduous forests of India and may be partial to well-watered areas. They are known to lead a predominantly solitary life. 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). 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. Being ruminants, they have a four-chambered stomach like other deer though it is not considered to be a true deer. They also have many characters that are more pig-like. They lack antlers that most true deer sport and instead posses well developed canine teeth, which are probably used in fights.

About the author

S Karthikeyan
Karthikeyan is the chief naturalist of Jungle Lodges & Resorts based in Bangalore.


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