Species in Focus – Chital

Herd of Chital Deer. Shot in Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India.

Balletic.

They gingerly saunter through the grass, ears swivelling for the slightest sound of a predator. For they are forever being watched from the shadows. Bearing a perpetual apprehension, they graze. Such is life in the wild.

The Chital or Spotted deer is the quintessential animal of the Indian forests. You can find them almost anywhere in the country, peacefully grazing in open glades. It is also India’s only predominantly spotted deer, with its orange coat sprinkled with white blots.

Chital in Bandipur Tiger Reserve. Shot by Ishan Shanavas
Chital

I’ve been familiar with the chital for many years. Whenever I undertake a road trip from Bangalore to Calicut, I drive Through Bandipur Tiger Reserve, arguably the best place to sight this elegant deer. Scores of chital graze alongside the road, daintily moving through the lantana bushes.

Being the wild animal I encounter most frequently, I simply adore the chital. They have a certain grace, a certain poise that makes them one of nature’s finest creatures. Their presence seems to breathe peace and tranquillity.

A Chital doe. Shot in Waynad Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerala, India by Ishan Shanavas
A Chital doe.

Male chital periodically grow and shed their antlers. Through the year, one can see them devoid of antlers, with antlers in velvet (formative stage) and full-formed antlers. If you trek through chital habitat, you might come across shed antlers littered on the forest floor (It is fascinating to observe these structures up close; they provide nourishment for porcupines).

I made a photo story of the chital, where I photographed its body as a landscape – Check it out!

Chital play a vital role in being a primary species for most of India’s predators. Tigers, leopards, dholes—all prey on chital.

Thus a healthy chital population is indicative of a productive forest.If you visit the wilds of India, keep your eyes peeled for the spotted deer. Spend time observing their curious mannerisms. You surely won’t be disappointed.

Fact File

Chital or Spotted Deer (Axis axis)

  • Weight and Length: 45-85 kg, 140-155 cm,
  • Found throughout peninsular India till Gujarat, Rajasthan, Odisha, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Bangladesh. Introduced into the Andaman Islands.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

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Published by Ishan Shanavas

I am a young adult, interested in nature, photography, art and culture. An aspiring polymath, I share my learnings through my blog. I also include insights from my favourite books.

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