Antelope-like mammal from Bhutan recorded at lowest elevation in Assam

The vulnerable mainland serow was hitherto found to inhabit areas at altitudes between 200 and 3,000 metres above the mean sea level

Updated - June 27, 2024 11:30 pm IST

Published - June 27, 2024 08:21 pm IST - GUWAHATI

A mainland serow rummaging through Assam’s Raimona National Park.

A mainland serow rummaging through Assam’s Raimona National Park. | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

GUWAHATI

The mainland serow, a mammal that appears somewhere between a goat and an antelope, has been recorded at the lowest elevation beyond Bhutan, its natural home.

A team of scientists recorded a lone mainland serow (Capricornis sumatraensis thar) at 96 metres above the mean sea level in western Assam’s Raimona National Park. It was not the only first for the elusive animal; it was found within a radius of 1 km from a human habitation.

The finding with photographic proof was published as a scientific paper in the latest issue of the Journal of Threatened Taxa. The paper was authored by M. Firoz Ahmed, senior scientist at biodiversity conservation group Aaranyak, senior conservation biologist Dipankar Lahkar, Nibir Medhi, Nitul Kalita, Kachugaon Forest Division’s DFO Bhanu Sinha, forest officials Pranjal Talukdar, Biswajit Basumatary, and Tunu Basumatary, Assam University’s associate professor Ramie H. Begum, and Abhishek Harihar, the director of Tiger Programme, Panthera.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the mainland serow inhabits areas at altitudes of 200-3,000 metres. The animal habitat is across the India-Bhutan border in Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary and the Royal Manas National Park in the Himalayan country.

There are three other species of the animal – Japanese serow, red serow (found in eastern India, Bangladesh, and Myanmar), and Taiwan or Formosan serow.

“The discovery of the mainland serow near the Ganda Bajrum anti-poaching camp in the western range of Raimona National Park is good news for biodiversity conservation aspects. Our goal is to conserve this species and other wildlife in the national park,” Mr Sinha said.

Dr Ahmed said the spotting of the mainland serow would augur well for conservation efforts toward recovering the population of certain species and restoring degraded habitats in Raimona, once a victim of poaching for bushmeat and habitat alternation due to logging.

“The animal is distributed from the Himalayan belt to southern China and Sumatra but its populations are fragmented, isolated, and rapidly declining due to poaching and habitat loss. The lack of reliable data on the species makes it difficult to come up with conservation actions to ensure long-term survival,” Dr. Lahkar said.

The Assam government declared the 422 sq. km Raimona a national park on June 8, 2021.

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