Hispid hare species lacks census data- Survey of the tiny animal amid tall grass a challenge, says researcher
Guwahati, June 7: Efforts to get a population estimate of hispid hares — a rare and threatened species that lives amid tall grasslands — have proved futile till date.
Naba Krishna Nath, a young wildlife researcher of Aaranyak, a city-based bio-diversity conservation society, has been scouring the grasslands in two areas, but has not been able to spot the species with his naked eye.
“The field survey on hispid hares is really a big challenge. Hispid hares live in the tall grasslands, which are also a potential habitat of large herbivores. Doing a survey in these grasslands (where grasses can be as tall as an elephant) and looking for the tiny hispid hare is really very risky and difficult. Besides, visibility becomes almost zero once one enters the thick grasslands,” Nath said.
Hispid hare (Caprolagus hispidus), has been recognised as globally endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It has also been listed in the schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
Locally known as Khagorikota xoha, this relatively small mammal, which apparently lacks the appeal that some of their larger kind command, are of critical importance in the world ecosystems.
The mean body weight of the animal is 2,248 grams (male) and 2,518 grams (female). The coarse, bristly coat is dark brown on the dorsal surface, due to a mixture of black and brown hair, ventrally brown on the chest and whitish on the abdomen. The tail is short (approximately 30mm) and brown. The ears are also short (approximately 56mm) and rounded.
Only a few studies have so far been carried out on the species.
Once thought to be extinct from the grasslands of the Brahmaputra valley in the region, this “rare hare” species was rediscovered in 1971 in the Barnadi wildlife sanctuary of Assam.
Nath had earlier carried out a survey of the species in the north bank landscape but could not sight the animal there. He is currently conducting a survey at Manas National Park.
“There is only one feasible method to do a census of hispid hare, which is to capture the animal. But getting research permission from the forest department is really very difficult as the animal is endangered. A rough population estimate could be carried out, based on the size of hispid hare pellets (droppings) and that is what I am doing during my study in Manas,” Nath said.
He said dearth of information on hispid hares creates hurdles in efforts to conserve the species.
“Regulating grazing in hare habitats, preventing hunting and controlling the harvest of thatched grass are some of the measures that are needed to protect the species,” he said.
Aaranyak has recently launched a research and conservation project to study the ecological status of hispid hares in Manas National Park with financial support from the Conservation Leadership Programme, UK.
The study will assess the ecological status of the species at Manas, identify viable population of the animal and assess the survival threats and prepare distribution/habitat maps using geographical information system (GIS) techniques.
why do we forget the samller ones?