Into the early twentieth century, the Barasingha was widely distributed in areas of suitable habitat throughout the IndoGangetic plain and the lowlands flanking the southern Himalaya. The range formerly extended eastward across the terai of southern Nepal through the Sundarbans as far as Assam. Barasingha occurred west to the River Indus, into Pakistan, and as far south as the River Godavari area of east-central India (Schaller 1967, Groves 1982, Sankaran 1989). The only known population in Bangladesh was in the Sundarbans, where it has been extinct for perhaps a century. The species may also have been in the northeast of Bangladesh, given its distribution in adjacent India (Md Anwarul Islam in litt. 2008).
Groves (1982) defined three subspecies with distributions (from Qureshi et al. 2004) as follows:
- R. d. duvaucelii (G. Cuvier, 1823) (Wetland Barasingha): Indo-Gangetic plain, north of the Ganges: Nepal, India, and, where extinct, Pakistan.
- R. d. branderi Pocock, 1943 (Hard-ground Barasingha): central India, between the rivers Ganges and Godavari.
- R. d. ranjitsinhi (Groves, 1982) (Eastern Barasingha): Brahmaputra plain; probably disjunct from the nominate for a very long time (Groves 1982): India and, where extinct, Bangladesh.
Barasingha, or swamp deer (Rucervus duvaucelii), were once distributed throughout the Indian peninsula, but today are only found in areas of central and northern India and southern Nepal. There are two recognized subspecies: R. d. branderi, found in Madhya Pradesh, and R. d. duvaucelii, found in Uttar Pradesh and southern Nepal.
Biogeographic Regions: oriental (Native )
- Massicot, P. 2005. "Animal Info – Barasingha" (On-line). Accessed November 20, 2006 at http://www.animalinfo.org/species/artiperi/cervduva.htm.
- Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition, Volume II. Baltimore & London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
- Schaller, G. 1967. The Deer and the Tiger. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Adult Rucervus duvaucelii stand between 119 to 124 centimeters at the shoulder, and weigh approximately 172 to 181 kilograms. Their coats are chestnut brown on the back, fading to a lighter brown on the sides and belly, with a creamy white on the inside of the legs, rump, and underside of the tail. Their chins, throats, and the insides of their ears are also whitish in color. In winter months, beginning around November, the coat turns a dark, dull grayish brown. Adult males will have darker coats than females and juveniles, ranging from dark brown to almost black. The coats of fawns are brown and spotted when born, but the spots will fade as the fawn matures.
The name “barasingha” literally means “twelve-tined”. A fully adult male can have 10 to 15 tines, though some males have been found to have up to 20. Antlers of barasingha are smooth, the main beam sweeping upward for over half the length before branching repeatedly.
Range mass: 172 to 181 kg.
Range length: 119 to 124 cm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: male larger; sexes colored or patterned differently; ornamentation
Habitat and Ecology
The animals disperse in the wet season and congregate in large herds during the dry season, often in response to new growth following fire and the need for drinking water (Henshaw 1991, Qureshi et al. 2004 and references therein). These seasonal movements take animals outside protected areas in at least Dudhwa and Kaziranga (Qureshi et al. 2004). In Dudhwa, mean group sizes during summer, monsoon and winter were 32, 13 and seven respectively; congregations of up to 250 individuals have been seen (Qureshi et al. 1994). The composite home range of herds ranges from 10 to 30 km2 annually (Qureshi et al. 1995).
The Barasingha is polygynous: males and females have a linear hierarchy and during the rut males tend to defend females in oestrous (Schaller 1967, Martin 1977, Schaff 1978, Singh 1985, Qureshi et al. 1995). Mating in R. d. duvaucelii and R. d. branderi occurs during winter; most of the stags are in hard antler by September and they start calling by then. Calling peaks during mid October to November, but occurs within mid Augustmid April. As the season progresses, the evening calling peak shifts to morning (Schaller 1967, Martin 1977, Schaff 1978, Singh 1984, Qureshi et al. 1995). Rutting starts for R. d. duvaucelii in AugustSeptember, for R. d. branderi in early December and for R. d. ranjitsinhi in April; antler shedding begins by mid January, late April and early October respectively for the three races; fawning peaks in JulyAugust, September-October, and March-April respectively for the three races (Qureshi et al. 2005 and references therein). There is strong fidelity to rutting sites and animals continue to visit those amid cultivation (Schaller 1967, Martin 1977, Schaff 1978, Qureshi et al. 1995).
The Barasingha is monoestrous and monotochus (Qureshi et al. 2004). Females reproduce at the age of two to three years and males older than four years contribute to breeding (Schaller 1967, Martin 1977, Schaff 1978, Qureshi et al. 1995). Gestation lasts 240250 days (Asdell 1964). The sex ratio in all three subspecies ranged from 4080 stags per 100 hinds (Schaller 1967, Martin 1977, Schaff 1978, Singh 1984, Sankaran 1989, Qureshi et al. 1995). The low male to female ratio reflects selective predation and poaching (Qureshi et al. 2004). Barasingha females, including the two-year-olds, have reproductive rates of 2045 fawns per 100 hinds (Schaller 1967, Martin 1977, Schaff 1978, Singh 1984, Sankaran 1989, Qureshi et al. 1995).
Barasingha mortality is largely by predation, flooding (for R. d. duvaucelii and R. d. ranjitsinhii) and poaching. Tiger Panthera tigris is a major predator of Barasingha, there are reports of kills by Leopard P. pardus and Dhole Cuon alpinus (Qureshi et al. 2004). Golden Jackal Canis aureus predation on fawns and yearlings was reported by Singh (1985) and Schaff (1978).
Ecology and behaviour have been studied in several populations; Qureshi et al. (2004) gives an overview of information to date.
The name “swamp deer” refers to the habitat preferred by the species. Rucervus duvaucelii duvaucelii is found in swampland and a variety of forest types ranging from dry to moist deciduous to evergreen. Rucervus duvaucelii branderi is found in grassy floodplains. In either forested or open habitats, both subspecies are commonly found near bodies of water.
Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest
Wetlands: marsh ; swamp ; bog
Other Habitat Features: riparian
- Whitehead, G. 1972. Deer of the World. London: Constable & Company, Ltd.
Barasinghas primarily eat grasses. During the hot season, they will drink at least twice a day, the first time soon after daylight and again in the late afternoon.
Plant Foods: leaves; flowers
Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore )
Barasinghas are an important prey animal for tigers and leopards. They graze heavily on grasses and impact plant communities.
Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds
Barasinghas react to the alarm calls of their own kind as well as those of other animals by holding their necks erect and cocking their ears, facing themselves towards the threat. This alerts others in the herd, who adopt the same posture as well as raise their tails and stomp their hooves. Barks and screams are sent back and forth throughout the herd, rising in pitch if a predator is sighted. The alarm reaction persists until the barasinghas are certain danger is no longer near. The primary natural predators of barasinghas are tigers and leopards.
- tigers (Panthera tigris)
- leopards (Panthera pardus)
- humans (Homo sapiens)
Life History and Behavior
Barasingha males use wallows to spread their scent during the rut in an attempt to attract available females and announce their presence to other males. Bugles and barks are also employed for these purposes. Alarm calls are used when predators are nearby.
Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
The oldest captive Rucervus duvaucelii reached 23 years of age; in the wild, individuals typically reach 20 years old.
Status: wild: 20 years.
Status: captivity: 23 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Barasingha are polygynous, a dominant stag collecting a harem of up to thirty hinds (females). He will fight with other males for possession of the harem and the right to breed. At the beginning of the rut in mid-October, herds start to break apart and males create wallows. Male barasingha wallow by urinating and defecating in muddy pools and then roll, coating themselves in scent. Males also begin to bugle and bark; these sounds are sometimes compared to the braying of mules. Their calls will continue throughout the rut and well into February. Fights between competing males occur as they form harems. Males will scrape the ground with their hooves and then run at each other, clashing antlers. The tines will often be snapped off during these fights, leaving the antlers broken or disfigured. At the end of the rut, stags will leave their females and band together with other stags, while hinds form herds with similarly-aged females.
Mating System: polygynous
Breeding, or rutting, season begins in October and continues through February. The gestation period lasts 240 to 250 days, with most fawns born between September and October. A female barasingha reaches sexual maturity at 2 years of age. Barasinghas have one fawn per year, rarely twins.
Breeding interval: Barasinghas breed once a year.
Breeding season: Breeding occurs from October through February.
Range number of offspring: 1 to 2.
Average number of offspring: 1.
Range gestation period: 8 to 8.33 months.
Range weaning age: 6 to 8 months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2 to 3 years.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous
A female barasingha will wean her young between 6 to 8 months of age. Males are not involved in providing for or protecting the young.
Parental Investment: precocial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)
- Huffman, B. 2006. "Rucervus duvaucelii, Barasingha, swamp deer" (On-line). Accessed November 20, 2006 at http://www.ultimateungulate.com/Artiodactyla/Rucervus_duvaucelii.html.
- Schaller, G. 1967. The Deer and the Tiger. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
- Walker, M. 2005. "Barasingha deer, Cervus ducuaceli " (On-line). Accessed November 20, 2006 at http://www.worlddeer.org/barasingha.html.
- Whitehead, G. 1972. Deer of the World. London: Constable & Company, Ltd.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Rucervus duvaucelii
Below is the sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen.
Other sequences that do not yet meet barcode criteria may also be available.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Rucervus duvaucelii
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
The range is now severely fragmented and the total area of occupancy (AOO) possibly falls below 2,000 km2, if areas of unsuitable habitat within protected areas supporting it are excluded. If the AOO were to be confirmed, then this species may also qualify as Vulnerable based on criterion B2. However, no substantive new information was received in 2014 to enable a full reassessment of this species.This species is reliant upon hands-on management in protected areas and changes in management style could see a resumption of very rapid declines echoing those of the mid-twentieth century.
- 2013Vulnerable (VU)
- Vulnerable (VU)
- 1996Vulnerable (VU)
- 1994Endangered (E)
- 1990Endangered (E)
- 1988Endangered (E)
- 1986Endangered (E)
Barasinghas are listed as an endangered species by the IUCN. The subspecies R. d. duvaucelii is considered a vulnerable species, while R. d. branderi is endangered. Degradation of habitat, along with predation and hunting has brought barasinghas to low population levels.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: appendix i
State of Michigan List: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: vulnerable
Date Listed: 06/02/1970
Lead Region: Foreign (Region 10)
Where Listed: Entire
Population location: Entire
Listing status: E
For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Cervus duvaucelii, see its USFWS Species Profile
The northern subspecies R. d. duvaucelii is the most numerous of the three races, with an estimated wild population is of 1,8002,400 in India and 1,6501,800 in Nepal (Qureshi et al. 2004; Chiranjibi Prasad Pokheral, NTNC, in litt. 2008). Schaller (1967) reported R. d. duvaucelii from 15 localities in India of which 11 were in Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal, three in Assam and one in West Bengal. At present R. d. duvaucelii exists in only six localities in Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal, two in Assam and none in West Bengal. In Nepal, out of four localities reported by Schaller (1967) only two now hold the species. Holloway (1973) reported a locality additional to Schallers, the Katerniaghat Sanctuary in Bahraich district of Uttar Pradesh. According to Qureshi et al. (2004), using data largely from Qureshi et al. (1995), R. d. duvacelii is restricted to Jhilmil tal Wildlife Conservation Reserve (Uttaranchal; no estimate), Hastinapur Sanctuary; Bijnor Forest Divison; Pilibhit Forest Divison (5090 animals in the early 1990s, about 50 a decade later, centred on the Lagga Bagga forest block of Mahof and Mala ranges; Johnsingh et al. 2004; but a population of about 300 in Lagga Bagga reported in 2008 to B. Long pers. comm. 2008); Kishanpur Sanctuary (about 400 in the early 1990s, Qureshi and Sawarkar 1994; and still considerable numbers a decade later, Johnsingh et al. 2004; a population of 600 reported in 2008 to B. Long pers. comm. 2008); Dudhwa National Park, Kheri District (a decline from 1,2001,500 in 1976 to about 700 by 1993, but still excellent habitat; Johnsingh et al. 2004; a population of 600 reported in 2008 to B. Long pers. comm. 2008); Katerniaghat Sanctuary (1025 animals in the early 1990s) (all in Uttar Pradesh) in India. There is also a population of over 100 Barasinghas in a small conservation reserve called Tatwala in Hardwar district; this habitat and population is totally isolated from other Barasingha populations (B. Long pers. comm. 2008). A small population was discovered in Uttarakhand state in 2005 in Jhilmil Jheel, an (37 km2) area of Reserve Forest.It persists at two sites in Nepal, Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve and KarnaliBardia Reserve. At the former there was an increase from around 900 in 1976 to around 1,850 animals in 1993 (Henshaw 1993), and since then relative stability: the minimum estimate in a count in April 2007 was of 1,674 animals, making this the largest single population in the world of the subspecies (Chiranjibi Prasad Pokheral, NTNC, in litt. 2008). In 2014, the Swamp Deer population was estimated at 2,301 (H. Baral pers. comm., based on data from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation). At KarnaliBardia Reserve, at least 34 animals were thought to be present, an increase from six in 1977, by Bauer (1990); during 19951996, Chiranjibi Prasad Pokheral (in litt. 2008) recorded about 73 animals in the park. Qureshi et al. (2004) estimated 50100 animals. Since the assessments of Schaller (1967) populations have apparently gone from Banke Division and Chitawan Division (both Nepal); Jaulasal Sanctuary; Lalkua Sanctuary; Maldhan Sanctuary; along the river Ganges, west of Handpur; between Hardwar and Luksor; Sonaripur Sanctuary; South Kheri Forest Division; Bahdi Tal, six miles west of Bellerain; Ghola and surrounding tracts; Mirchia, bordering Nepal; Jaldapara Sanctuary and surroundings (all India) (Qureshi et al. 2004). Further details of the Indian population of R. d. duvaucelii, estimated to total 3,5004,000, are summarized in Qureshi et al. (1995); no more recent synthesis was traced.
Rucervus duvaucelii ranjitsinhi is only found in Assam: Kaziranga National Park may have held about 750 animals in 1984, but this had declined to 350500 by 1994 (Choudhury 1987; Qureshi and Sawarkar 1994). These numbers were not based on methods which quantify confidence in the proposed population size; the first-ever rigorous estimates came from Karanth and Nichols (2000) who recorded a population density of 14 animals per km2 during their surveys in 1996 in Kaziranga National Park. The current status in Manas Tiger Reserve is uncertain (although it reportedly still occurs; B. Long pers. comm. 2008), and the species is extinct in Darang Division along the Bhutan border (Qureshi et al. 2004).
Rucervus duvauceliibranderi survives only in Kanha Tiger Reseve (Madhya Pradesh): the population peaked at an estimated 500 in 1988, an increase from a count of 66 in 1966 (Khajuria and Sinha 1986, Qureshi et al. 2004). In 1995, Karanth and Nichols (2000) estimated population density of three per km2 in Kanha National Park. In 2004, the population was thought to number 300350 (Qureshi et al. 2004). Other populations had become extinct since the 1960s in Motinala and Karanjia ranges, Mandla District; Balaghat District between Baihar and Lamba; near Amarkantak, Bilaspur District; near Kota, Bilaspur District; Madhya Pradesh-Orissa border Raipur District; West Bastar Division near Tekemeta; West Bastar Division near Kutru in Toynar and Bhairamgarh Range (Qureshi et al. 2004; some different locality names were used in Schaller 1967).
In 1992 there were approximately 50 individuals in five Indian zoos and 300 in various zoos in North America and Europe (Qureshi et al. 2004)
Habitat degradation is still problematic within protected areas supporting Barasingha. Grass, timber and fuelwood cutting by local people degrade the surviving habitat, which lies mostly within protected areas, and external threats include change in river dynamics due to human developmental activities, increase in siltation and reduced flow of water during critical periods of summer. Protected area management practices are sometimes questionable, e.g. the current practice of grassland burning to control woody succession needs to be done in form of a mosaic, and harrowing should be discouraged as it seems to deteriorate grassland condition and promote occupation by unpalatable grass species like Cymbopogon spp. Many grasslands and woodlands have weed infestation (e.g. Sesbania spp.); manual weed removal in Dudhwa and Kaziranga yielded good results for habitat of Barasingha (Qureshi et al. 1995, 2004). Although there seems to be no direct analysis of the effect of domestic stock grazing on this deer, in other wild ungulate communities studied in India they cause a major depression of densities of grazing species (e.g. Madhusudan 2004), and pending direct data, this should be assumed to be the case with Barasingha. Barasingha populations recovered in parts of North and Central India once grazing by domestic stock was controlled (Schaller 1967, Martin 1977, Schaff 1978, Singh 1984, Qureshi et al. 1995). Serious efforts remain necessary to control grazing in Hastinapur, Jhilmil tal and Katerniaghat (Qureshi et al. 2004). The grasslands and wetlands of the Terai arc landscape and the obligate species that they support, even those within protected areas are besieged by a multitude of threats which synergistically bode badly for the future (see also Red List accounts for Hog Deer Axis porcinus and Great Indian Rhinoceros Rhinoceros unicornis).
Barasingha meat is not considered a delicacy, being seen as less palatable than the meat of Hog Deer Axis porcinus and Chital A. axis (Qureshi et al. 1994) but Barasingha are still poached for antlers and meat (to local markets), especially populations outside protected areas permanently or seasonally (Qureshi et al. 2004). The hide is used to manufacture whips and other items (A. Singh pers. comm.). Particularly in Bangladesh, hunting seems to have been responsible for national extinction because the Sundarbans mangrove forest is still extensive (Md Anwarul Islam in litt. 2008). It is likely to remain a highly significant threat for populations outside well-secured protected areas.
Protected areas form the cornerstone of protecting Barasingha, given its attachment to level, well-watered areas, i.e. those perfect for agriculture. This makes for challenging conservation: Controlling human disturbance on Lagga Bagga [Pilhibit Forest Division, Terai Arc Landscape, India] is a huge challenge: many people rely on it for firewood, thatch grass and fodder. Intensive protection and participatory management with these people are required to restore the area (Johnsingh et al. 2004). Lagga Bagga was recently accorded protected area status, as a tiger reserve (B. Long pers. comm. 2008). Lagga Bagga and Kishanpur protected areas are connected by the Pilibhit Forest Division although Barasingha habitat is not contiguous (B. Long pers. comm. 2008). Dudhwa is also close by, and Lagga Bagga is adjacent to Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve of Nepal. These four areas in total hold most of the remaining R. d. duvauvcelii. Not surprisingly, few Barasingha herds now exist outside protected areas; in the Terai Arc Landscape of northern India, Hog Deer and Barasingha had the highest proportions (of all ungulates studied) of their regional populations within protected areas (Johnsingh et al. 2004). Remaining populations outside protected areas seem to be small, scattered, and facing a number of threats difficult to resolve; probably these should be seen as of lower priority than ensuring the persistence of populations within protected areas, but a rigorous assessment of this is needed.
Qureshi et al. (1995) recommended conservation actions which can, over a decade later, be boiled down to maintaining the integrity of the protected areas supporting key populations, with particular attention to:
- Curb poaching. The species does not have a high international trade value so poaching must tackled at least partly by and through local communities.
- Curb habitat degradation through further fragmentation and over-harvest of plant material from protected habitat.
- Develop long-term conservation management security for those areas where significant numbers disperse seasonally out of existing protected areas into surrounding farmland.
- Maintain appropriate burning regimes and other active habitat-management measures.
- Reduce and eventually cease grazing of domestic stock within protected areas.
One of the subspecies is down to a single herd, and another to just two herds. This makes extinction for a variety of unpredictable factors (e.g. weather, disease) a possibility. Establishment of additional populations of each of these forms a priority (Qureshi et al. 2004). Patches of suitable habitat remain for each form, from which the species has been hunted out and which could, if hunting can be prevented, serve as suitable release areas. Captive breeding is often mentioned as being important for this species, but its conservation benefit is not clear. Each subspecies has protected areas which havein the nick of time for two subspeciessecured buoyant populations. To expand beyond these, those protected areas retaining the species but not functioning so effectively need strengthening to allow natural recruitment. Establishment of additional herds of the two races down to a single site could be supported by translocations from each ones sole current herd.
There are ongoing plans in Nepal to translocate some of the deer from Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve to boost the smaller population of Bardia National Park. The Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation is also looking at the feasibility of re-introducing the species to Chitwan National Park. Swamp Deer was extirpated from Chitwan National Park during the 1960s, possibly due to a combination of factors (e.g. poaching, disease and habitat loss). The re-introduction programme will follow IUCN guidelines and ensure that in case of a catastrophic event in Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve, good numbers are also stocked in other protected areas where the species occurred in the recent past or still occurrs in small numbers.
In Kanha National Park, conservation activities have included dispersal of Tigers Panthera tigris away from main grazing areas, control of poaching, cessation of grass burning, creation of water reservoirs, and reduction in domestic cattle numbers (Khajuria and Sinha 1986). Out-migration of villages from the park has significantly extended Barasingha habitat and protected their traditional fawning and rutting grounds (Qureshi et al. 1994). Another park, Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve, has been enlarged from about 155 km2 to some 305 km2.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Barasinghas are shot and killed because they are thought to feed on crops, although there is no evidence to support this assumption.
Barasinghas that leave protected lands are hunted for food by humans.
Positive Impacts: food
The barasingha (Rucervus duvaucelii syn. Cervus duvaucelii), also called swamp deer, is a deer species distributed in the Indian subcontinent. Populations in northern and central India are fragmented, and two isolated populations occur in southwestern Nepal. It is extinct in Pakistan and in Bangladesh.
The swamp deer differs from all the Indian deer species in that the antlers carry more than three tines. Because of this distinctive character it is designated barasingha, meaning "twelve-tined." Mature stags have 10 to 14 tines, and some have been known to have up to 20.
The barasingha is a large deer with a shoulder height of 44 to 46 in (110 to 120 cm) and a head-to-body length of nearly 6 ft (180 cm). Its hair is rather woolly and yellowish brown above but paler below, with white spots along the spine. The throat, belly, inside of the thighs and beneath the tail is white. In summer the coat becomes bright rufous-brown. The neck is maned. Females are paler than males. Young are spotted. Average antlers measure 30 in (76 cm) round the curve with a girth of 5 in (13 cm) at mid beam. A record antler measured 104.1 cm (41.0 in) round the curve.
Distribution and habitat
In the 19th century, swamp deer ranged along the base of the Himalayas from Upper Assam to the west of the Jumna River, throughout Assam, in a few places in the Indo-Gangetic plain from the Eastern Sundarbans to Upper Sind, and locally throughout the area between the Ganges and Godavari as far east as Mandla. Swamp deer was also common in parts of the Upper Nerbudda valley and to the south in Bastar. They frequent flat or undulating grasslands and generally keep in the outskirts of forests. Sometimes, they are also found in open forest.
In the 1960s, the total population was estimated at 1600 to less than 2150 individuals in India and about 1600 in Nepal. Today, the distribution is much reduced and fragmented due to major losses in the 1930s–1960s following unregulated hunting and conversion of large tracts of grassland to cropland. Swamp deer occur in the Kanha National Park of Madhya Pradesh, in 2 localities in Assam, and in only 6 localities in Uttar Pradesh. They are regionally extinct in West Bengal. They are also probably extinct in Arunachal Pradesh. A few survive in Assam's Kaziranga and Manas National Parks.
Distribution of subspecies
- Western swamp deer R. d. duvauceli (Cuvier, 1823) – has splayed hooves and is adapted to the flooded tall grassland habitat in the Indo-Gangetic plain; in the early 1990s, populations in India were estimated at 1500–2000 individuals, and 1500–1900 individuals in the Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve of Nepal; latter population reached 2,170 individuals including 385 fawns in spring 2013.
- Southern swamp deer R. d. branderi (Pocock 1943) – has hard hooves and is adapted to hard ground in open sal forest with a grass understorey; survives only in the Kanha National Park, where the population numbered about 500 individuals in 1988; 300–350 individuals were estimated at the turn of the century;
- Eastern swamp deer R. d. ranjitsinhi (Grooves 1982) – is only found in Assam, where the population numbered about 700 individuals in 1978; 400–500 individuals were estimated in Kaziranga National Park at the turn of the century.
Ecology and behaviour
Swamp deer are mainly grazers. They largely feed on grasses and aquatic plants, foremost on Saccharum, Imperata cylindrica, Narenga porphyrocoma, Phragmites karka, Oryza rufipogon, Hygroryza and Hydrilla. They feed throughout the day with peaks during the mornings and late afternoons to evenings. In winter and monsoon, they drink water twice, and thrice or more in summer. In the hot season, they rest in the shade of trees during the day.
In central India, the herds comprise on average about 8–20 individuals, with large herds of up to 60. There are twice as many females than males. During the rut they form large herds of adults. The breeding season lasts from September to April, and births occur after a gestation of 240–250 days in August to November. The peak is in September and October in Kanha National Park. They give birth to single calves.
When alarmed, they give out shrill, baying alarm calls.
Captive specimens live up to 23 years.
Swamp deer lost most of its ancestral range because wetlands were converted and used for agriculture so that their habitat was reduced to small and isolated fragments. The remaining habitat in protected areas is threatened by the change in river dynamics, reduced water flow during summer, increasing siltation, and further degraded by local people who cut grass, timber and fuelwood. The swamp deer populations outside protected areas and seasonally migrating populations are threatened by poaching for antlers and meat, which are sold in local markets.
Rudyard Kipling in The Second Jungle Book featured a barasingha in the chapter "The Miracle of Purun Bhagat" by the name of "barasingh". It befriends Purun Bhagat because the man rubs the stag's velvet off his horns. Purun Bhagat then gives the barasinga nights in the shrine at which he is staying, with his warm fire, along with a few fresh chestnuts every now and then. Later as pay, the stag warns Purun Bhagat and his town about how the mountain on which they live is crumbling.
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