One of the smallest Asian bovids is the four-horned antelope. These antelopes have four horns, as opposed to the two horns found on most other bovids. In this species, only the males have horns. Between the ears are one pair of horns, and on the forehead are the other. The body of a four-horned antelope is slender, with thin legs and a short tail. The colour of their coat ranges from yellowish brown to reddish. The insides of the legs and the undersides of the wings are white. Black markings on the muzzle and behind the ears are among the facial features. Each leg's outer surface is marked by a black stripe.
India and Nepal are home to four-horned antelopes. They stretch from the Himalayan foothills in the north to the Deccan Plateau in the south in India. These antelopes prefer areas with dense grasses or undergrowth, as well as areas near water bodies. They try to avoid areas where people live. Four-horned antelopes are mostly found in hilly terrain, in open, dry deciduous forests.
The four-horned antelope is restricted to the Indian subcontinent, where it can be found in small, disjunct populations. The range stretches across India, from the Himalayan foothills in the north to the Deccan Plateau in the south. The majority of the existing population lives in India, with a smaller number in Nepal. The four-horned antelope lives in hilly terrain in open, dry deciduous forests. It prefers grassy or densely forested areas close to water bodies. It generally avoids human settlements.
It was once common throughout India's deciduous forests, but the population has since declined to just over 10,000 mature individuals in 2001, with a downward trend. The population of Mudumalai National Park is dispersed. In 1974, the population of Gir National Park was estimated to be 256 individuals; later estimates at waterholes in the same location put the population at just over 1,000. Healthy populations have been defined as those with a density of more than 0.7 people per square kilometre.
Gir National Park (Gujarat); Bandhavgarh National Park, Bori Wildlife Sanctuary, Kanha National Park, Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve, Panna Tiger Reserve, Pench Tiger Reserve, Sanjay National Park, Satpura National Park (Madhya Pradesh); Tadoba Andhari Reserve (Maharashtra); Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary, Ranthambore National Park (Maharashtra); Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary, Ranthambore (Rajasthan).
HABITS AND LIFESTYLE
During the day, four-horned antelopes are most active. They are naturally solitary, but they can form loose groups of three to five animals. One or more adults, sometimes accompanied by juveniles, make up these groups. Only during the mating season do males and females interact. These antelope are shy and difficult to find. When they are alarmed, they remain motionless and may nervously leap or sprint away from the danger. They often hide in tall grasses to avoid predators. Because they try to avoid predators' attention, four-horned antelopes don't usually use alarm calls to alert others. These calls, on the other hand, may be used to alert predators that they have been identified in extreme cases. Adults use preorbital glands to mark vegetation in their territories and have multiple latrine sites. Submissive display, which consists of shrinking the body, lowering the head, and pulling the ears back, is also used by these animals to communicate.
Grass, herbs, shrubs, foliage, flowers, and fruits are all eaten by this elusive antelope. It requires a lot of water to survive, so it prefers to stay near water sources. The four-horned antelope's breeding behaviour has not been well studied. The age at which they reach sexual maturity and the season in which they mate are both unknown. The gestation period lasts approximately eight months, after which one or two calves are born. For the first few weeks after birth, they are kept hidden. For about a year, the young stay with their mother.
THREATS AND CONSERVATION
The four-horned antelope is threatened by agricultural expansion, which has resulted in the loss of its natural habitat. Furthermore, trophy hunters have been attracted to the unusual four-horned skull and horns. The species is protected in India under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, and the Nepalese population is listed in Appendix III of CITES. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources has classified the four-horned antelope as Vulnerable (IUCN).