State of Rajasthan ushers in good news for animal lovers with the rare sighting of two endangered species in two different wildlife reserve of the state. While the endangered fishing cat was seen at the Keoladeo bird sanctuary a rare glimpse of the four-horned antelope believed to be extinct for years was seen at the Sariska Wildlife Reserve.
The four-horned antelope is popularly known as the chousingha and it was last seen four years ago in the same reserve.
On May 17, about 5 to 6 four-horned antelopes were seen by wildlife activists Chinmay McMassey, founder of the Sariska Tiger Conservation, at the Tarunda region.
“It was last sighted in 2000 and these animals are rarer than the tiger,” claimed Chinmay.
These antelopes are only found in India and Nepal and are said to be shy animals. Once they roamed all the Aravali range but with the presence of humans and cattle increasing everyday they were pushed back into deeper jungle pockets and slowly disappeared.
“Chousinghas were common in the Aravallis and being a shy animal they prefer locations where there is little or no presence of cattle and human beings. But with development and an influx of people in all terrain they were endangered,” said Rajpal Singh, state wildlife board member.
The antelopes have males with four horns and this is what demarcates them from other antelopes most commonly the barasingha. Sadly, it is their rare horns that led to poaching of the animals before the 80s when many were hunted.
“Before the 80s, these animals were also poached a lot, bringing down their numbers. But Sariska had continued to be a good place for their sighting. However, for the past four years, no one had seen it and a scientist of the WII, K Shankar, working in Sariska had in a recent presentation even raised suspicion of its being lost from the sanctuary altogether,” sources said.
Fishing cats are wild cats found in South and South East Asia. IUCN has listed them as endangered.
Like its closest relative, the leopard cat, the fishing cat lives along rivers, streams and mangrove swamps. It is well adapted to this habitat, being an eager and skilled swimmer and primarily lives on fishes.
What is interesting is that although these cats prefer to live in wetland habitat, they were found in Rajasthan that is not known for its wetlands. The sighting was also a novelty because Keoladeo bird sanctuary is experiencing a dry spell since 2003.
A WII member spotted the animal’s droppings and since then watch was increased around the area. Finally, the animal was spotted.
According to Rajpal Singh, “The two sightings are definitely a thing to rejoice for any wildlife enthusiast. The four-horned antelope was last seen at Sariska about four years ago while the fishing cat that was sighted at the Keoladeo sanctuary has confirmed its existence.”
It is definitely double good news for animal lovers.
– Atula Gupta
Article source: TOI