Establishing the Presence of Four-horned Antelope (Tetracerus quadricornis) in Ghatkuri Reserved Forest, in Saranda Forest of West Singhbhum district in Jharkhand

Four-horned antelope (Tetracerus quadricornis) is a small tropical antelope endemic to India and Nepal. Unlike most other antelopes, this species, like the deer, has adapted to live in wooded forest in undulating or hilly terrain. The species, currently listed as vulnerable (IUCN, 2014) and Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act 1972:91, is distributed in all Indian states south of Uttar Pradesh, except Kerala. Existence of this small antelope, that was once common, in Saranda Forest of West Singhbhum district in Jharkhand, is in peril mainly due to habitat loss and degradation, as a result of threats including fire and development projects mainly mines. The Saranda forest department also are doubtful of its presence in the area. Hence, M/S. Usha Martin Private Limited, as part of their compliance given by the MoEFCC, New Delhi, had to establish the presence of FHA in and around their Ghatkuri Vijay – II Iron Ore Mines, in Ghatkuri Reserved Forest, in Saranda Forest of West Singhbhum district in Jharkhand. Further, the condition also specifies that, if FHA presence is established then a conservation plan for this species is to be developed. So Usha Martin Pvt. Ltd, engaged Green Future Foundation (GFF), New Delhi, to carry out this study.

This study is planned for four months, involving  GIS and Remote sensing for preparation of the land use and land cover map of the Ghatkuri Reserved Forest study landscape.   GPS was used to record the survey routes, the location of the evidences both direct and indirect evidences (middens – male specific defecating sites, pellets, tracks). In addition, interviews with local people of the villages within the study area were conducted showing the photos of the FHA and the middens. Information on the habitat and animal variables were recorded at each site where the evidence was found.

The field survey started on 22nd of May 2016, and on the second day of the survey, itself one midden was located, which showed that Four-horned antelope is present in this Ghatkuri RF. The surveys were continued covering all parts of the study area. Till 10th of June 2016, more than 30 middens and pellets, and two direct sightings of Four-horned antelope were recorded at different parts of the study area, both close and away from the mines. In spite of the direct sighting there were no photographic record of the animal due to its shy  and sulking in dense scrub while moving behaviour, it was decided to put up camera traps at strategic points in  frequently used middens and paths leading to these middens.

This forest area is used intensively by local people, hence only five camera traps were deployed in the evenings and dismantled in the early mornings. Our continued efforts resulted in recording of more middens, which gave us an option to select the largest and most frequently used midden to set up the camera traps. Finally on 7th June 2016 in the early hours around 3 am, the elusive Four-horned antelope was camera   trapped and we finally got the tangible evidence needed to prove its presence.