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An Ultimate Ungulate Fact Sheet
Moschiola indica
Indian chevrotain
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Classification
 

Kingdom:
Phylum:
Class:
Order:
Suborder:
Family:
Genus:

Animalia
Chordata
Mammalia
Artiodactyla
Ruminantia
Tragulidae
Moschiola

Common name:
Scientific name:
Other names:
Indian chevrotain
Moschiola indica
Indian spotted chevrotain, Pisura, Khedbi, Ramgai, Musemriga

The genus Moschiola was revised in 2005, resulting in the single traditionally-recognized species (Moschiola meminna) being split into three separate species. The Indian chevrotain is the best-studied member of the genus Moschiola. However, much of the scientific literature on the Indian chevrotain published prior to 2005 uses the scientific name M. meminna (now restricted to chevrotains from the dry zone of Sri Lanka).

Physical Characteristics

Head and body length: 48-60 cm
Shoulder height: 25-33 cm
Tail length: 3-6 cm
Adult weight: 3 kg, although weights of up to 5.45 kg have been reported.

The largest member of the genus Moschiola. The Indian chevrotain has short front limbs, relatively long hind limbs, and an arched back. The general coloration is a dull brown with pale underparts. Four or five loose rows of white spots mark the flanks, and three broken bands of white cross the rump. The individual pattern of spots (which occasionally merge together to form short longitudinal stripes) is unique, and has been use to recognize animals in remote camera images. The underside of the throat has two pairs of lateral stripes, connected by a continuous white stripe which extends from the chin to the pale belly. The top of the head, including the forehead and a wedge between the eyes, is dark brown. Males develop prominent tusk-like upper canines.

Similar species

Reproduction and Development

Gestation period: 154 days.
Litter size: One, occasionally twins.
Sexual maturity: Females at 5-5.5 months.

Indian chevrotains breed throughout the year, although birth rates are higher from September to February, the period following the monsoon season. Copulation takes place with the female lying down, and it has been reported that a female will breed only once per estrous cycle. Neonates weigh an average of 470 g at birth. Like other chevrotains, females will return to estrus within 4-6 hours of giving birth.

Ecology and Behavior

The Indian chevrotain is a shy, cryptic species and little is known about its ecology. Based on anecdotal observations and camera trap studies, the species is nocturnal in its foraging patterns. Narrow trails through dense undergrowth are regularly used. During the day, these chevrotains seek shelter in tree buttresses, hollow trunks, thickets, and rocky crevices. Upon sensing danger, they generally freeze in position - only when approached closely do they flee into dense cover with an explosive burst of speed. Population density in the Periyar Tiger Reserve has been estimated at 21.4 individuals per km2 using camera trap images.
Family group: Generally solitary, sometimes seen in pairs.
Diet: Fallen fruits, also potentially leaves, buds, and shoots.
Main Predators: Tiger, leopard, and smaller cats, dhole, martens, eagles, owls, pythons, crocodiles.

Habitat and Distribution

Indian chevrotains inhabit a variety of forested habitats in India and southern Nepal, at elevations up to 1,850 m. It is most common in tropical deciduous forests, but is also found in dry thorn forests, semi-evergreen forests, and moist evergreen forests. Habitats near water, with less leaf litter and the presence of bamboo thickets, seem to be preferred. The approximate range is depicted in the map below.

Range Map
(from Duckworth and Timmins, 2015)

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List: Least Concern (2015).
CITES Listing: Not listed (2019).
Threats: Hunting, potentially habitat destruction or conversion.

The global population of the Indian chevrotain has not been assessed. It is widespread, but is one of the most frequently-hunted species within its range, and sustained hunting (through net drives, snares, pit traps, and dogs) is thought to be responsible for localized reductions in numbers.

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