The Zabarwan Range is a short sub-mountain range between Pir Panjal and Great Himalayan Range in the central part of the Kashmir Valley. Last week when two friends, Sheikh Riyaz and Mudassir Manzoo went for a hike in the mountains, they had little idea they would spot an animal that has been hardly ever seen or photographed in Kashmir. The two caught a glimpse of the rarely sighted ‘goat-antelope’ Himalayan Serow and photographed it for the first time from the Kashmir valley.
“I saw something moving in the grassland. I took out my binoculars and saw this beautiful but shy goat there, eating grass. It came out on a cliff in the open. I shouted at my friend to confirm its identification,” said Riyaz to Kashmir Reader
“After he confirmed, we went close and took its photographs. Within no time it disappeared in the grass again. It was like it came out for us, then went back. It was like a dream,” Riyaz said with a smile.
The Elusive Goat Antelope
Call them goat-like antelopes or antelope-like goats, the serows are an unusual looking animal, so much so, that till date scientists have not been able to resolve the taxonomy of the serows. There are 6 species found in South East Asian countries including Japan, China, Myanmar and India. The Himalayan Serow (Capricornis thar) has been listed as Near Threatened. (NT)
An appearance of a goat with long, donkey like ears, and a habit of standing with forelegs astraddle, make the Serow an ungainly goat antelope. Its coarse coat varies from black to red. It is usually the dark form that is found in the Kashmir Himalayas.
As per Kashmir Reader in Jammu and Kashmir the goat is very rarely sighted, that too only in the protected areas of Dachigam National Park and Overa-Aru Wildlife Sanctuary. Locally known as Halj or Ream, it has been never photographed before in the wild in Kashmir. Most of the photographs available are either from Bhutan or Uttarakhand or from wildlife captivities.
Mudassir Manzoor, the other photographer says that he has been lucky to have had clicked many wild animals in Kashmir, including the four pointer hangul or the famous Kashmir red Stag. However, he had never been able to find the serow despite searching for it in various national parks of the state.
“It was a lucky day for us as we also sighted birds of prey like Northern Goshawk, Himalayan Buzzard, Oriental Honey Buzzard and Common Kestrel. It is a huge achievement for both of us to sight the Serow and, more importantly, to photograph it,” he adds.
First Daytime Evidence
Dr Zaffar Rayees Mir, Wildlife Biologist and National Post Doctoral Fellow in the Division of Wildlife Science, Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST), says that this photograph of the Himalayan Serow is the first photographic evidence taken manually that proves the presence of the animal in the region. Few years back, a serow was clicked in Dachigam National park by a camera trap while photographing a black bear.
Featured image of the rare Himalayan Serow captured for the first time in Kashmir, Image via Kashmir Reader