Authors: Abdul Haleem, Orus Ilyas and Shaheer Khan
Four-horned antelope (Tetracerus quadricornis) or Chowsingha is one of the smallest Asian bovids, endemic to India and Nepal. Despite its wide distribution in India, the species has received very little scientific attention. We studied its habitat preference and feeding habit in Pench Mowgli Sanctuary and Karmajhiri range of Pench Tiger Reserve (PTR) during summer season of 2013 using indirect evidences. A total of 169 sampling plots were established. In between two consecutive plots an interval of 200 m was maintained and geographical location (Latitude & Longitude) of each sampling plot was recorded through GPS. A circular plot of 10 m radius was laid within each sampling plot to locate faecal matter of Chowsingha. Same plots were also used for studying the vegetation composition to investigate habitat utilization pattern. One way ANOVA was used to test for significant differences in mean pellet group densities viz-a-viz different habitat variables using computer programme SPSS. Out of five classified habitat in PTR Chowsingha were only reported from miscellaneous forest of Pench Mowgli sanctuary and the mean pellet group density was 7.14± 2.32, whereas, their absence were recorded from Pench National Park with a significant result (F4 164 = 5.737, P< .005). Mean pellet group density of Chowsingha was found maximum in very high tree cover (3.03± 2.09), low herb cover (2.84± 1.46) and medium grass cover (4.63± 1.73) and minimum in medium tree cover (2.54± 1.53), high herb cover (0.9367± 0.9367) and low grass cover (0.6776± 0.6766) respectively with an insignificant result (F3 165 = 1.010, P> .005, F3 165 = 0.327, P> .005, F3 165 = 2.551, P> .005). Diet composition of Chowsingha was also studied by analyzing 32 pellets collected from different sampling plots using micro-histological technique. A total of 88 permanent reference slides of available plants were prepared and used for plant fragment identification from the different pellet groups. The proportion of each species in the diet composition was compared with the food plants available in Pench Tiger Reserve. A total of 23 species (18 browse and 6 grass species) of plants were identified from different samples of pellet group of Chowsingha. Out of all 18 browse species identified from the pellet group of chowsingha proportion of Albizia odoratissima was found maximum (9.160305%), whereas, Terminalia tomentosa was minimum (0.572519%). Similarly for grasses it was found that the proportion of Eragrostis tenella was maximum (24.5229%) and Imperata cylindrical was minimum (0.19084%). The study also revealed that Chowsingha, percentage prefers grasses (45.42%) in comparison to climber (3.34). The study also suggests that the four horned antelope is a specialist species.
Keywords: Chowsingha, Pench tiger reserve, Madhya Pradesh, Feeding behaviour