A look at India’s four-horned antelope

A quarter of the world’s antelope species are threatened with extinction, including the four-horned antelope (Tetracerus quadricornis). Unique to the Indian subcontinent this interesting antelope is classed as Vulnerable to extinction by the IUCN.

Currently 95% of the population is found south of the Himalayas and it remains the least-studied antelope in India.

Suresh Jones led a team of researchers to investigate the habitat use and local threats to a small, isolated yet stable four-horned antelope population in the Eastern Ghats of Chittoor district, Andhra Pradesh.

“My primary interest is to work for conservation outside protected areas, like national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, as two-thirds of Indian wildlife exists there,” said Suresh.

Results show that fire deliberately lit by the local villagers and originally considered a serious threat has a positive influence for the antelope.

Suresh and the team found that recurring fire had an impact on plant life in the area but that the plants the antelope relied on for food were largely fire resistant. In addition a tall unpalatable grass which does well in burnt areas seemed to offer good shelter for the antelope.

This was presented at the 23rd International Congress for Conservation Biology in 2009. The team intends to undertake more intense studies on the ecology of the four-horned antelope in relation to forest fires in the region.

Suresh Jones, a committed local naturalist with good field experience, founded LORIS-The Biodiversity Conservation Society that works towards conservation of threatened species of the Eastern Ghats by involving local communities. In 2008 he was a recipient of a Conservation Leadership Programme Future Conservationist Award.

Click on the picture below to see the larger image of the four-horned antelope