Mammals are warm blooded animals that generate their own heat and generally have hair or fur covering all their bodies but their eyes. All but a few Australian mammals give birth to live young. The word mammal is derived from "mamma", Latin for "breast,” a reference to the fact that mammal young feed from the breasts of their mothers.
A lot about mammals can be surmised from their teeth. Sharp, fang-like canine teeth are an indication of a meat eater. Large molars in the back are used for grinding up vegetable matter such as roots, leaves and fruit. Chisel-like front teeth are used by grazers and rodents to graze on grass and bite into nuts.
There are about 4,600 species of mammals. About a quarter of all mammals are bats. About a half are rodents. The first mammals were shrewlike creatures that appeared around 200 million years, and scuttled among leaf litter mean on insects and millipedes. According to the official Red List by the World Conservation Union one in four mammals species is threatened. Threats include loss of habitat and competition from alien species.
Dholes are a kind of wild dog immortalized by Rudyard Kipling in "The Jungle Book". Also known a the red dogs of Asia, they about the size of a coyote and look like a cross between or a fox and a dog or a coyote and a dingo. [Source: Natural History, November 1999]
Dholes once ranged from Siberia to Sumatra but now are found mostly in forests and scrub lands in India and some places in Southeast Asia and China. About 15,000 dholes remain in all of India, about a third of them live in southern India. Dholes can survive in a variety of habitats: grasslands, dry forests, wet forests. They can even thrive in cities. Even so their numbers are diminishing.
Kipling's characterized dholes as savage killers with "no manners” — a view shared by many Indians. Until recently they were treated as vermin and regarded as a threat to livestock and were killed by local people whenever the opportunity presented itself.
Dholes are endangered animals. Their number are unknown but have dropped dramatically in recent years, primarily as a result of loss of habitat, diseases and poaching of their prey. Even though the Indian Wildlife Act of 1972 made dholes a protected species in India they have been reduced to remnant populations even in areas where they are protected.
Dhole Characteristics, Feeding and Behavior
Dholes are about 90 centimeter long, excluding a 43-centimeter tail, and weigh around 17 kilogram. Males weigh up to 46 pounds; females up to 37 pounds. They are usually a rusty red in color, with a pale underbelly and a black tail.
Dholes are very social animals. They live in packs with seven to 25 members and are led, as is the case of wolves, by an Alpha male and Alpha female. They communicates with each other using unique whistling sounds. Like wolves, jackals and African wild dogs they defecate in communal latrines in fixed places.
Dholes hunt in packs using tactic like those of African wild dogs and feed on animals much larger than themselves: deer, wild boar and antelope. They also eat rodents, berries and insects. Dholes chase down their prey, kill it and devour it one sitting and then move on to find more prey.
A pack typically hunts over an area of 30 square miles. Hunting strategies vary with terrain and plant cover. The packs usually travel over the range and regularly visit places frequented by their prey. A high-pitched whistle is used to coordinate cooperative hunting.
In India, its main prey is chitral, or spotted deer. In Thailand they often feed on sambar deer. When pursuing these animals they attack from different directions and try to separate their prey — ideally young fawns — from the rest of the herd. Their attacks are often thwarted by the mothers of fawns.
Dhole Mating Behavior and Young
Dholes pair off during the mating season, a single week in September or October. Although there are several adult females the alpha female is the only one that does any mating. The Alpha male shows the most interests in her but other males may mount her.
December is the denning month for dholes in southern India. Females dig their dens deep into the earth along the banks of dry streambeds.
While mothers remain in the den with the pups other members of the pack hunt, often bringing back meat for the mother. When the pups are one month old they are moved from the den to a cave. Then the mother begins hunting while old siblings watch over the pups. The pups are then fed regurgitated meat from all the pack members.
Pups are preyed upon by jackals and leopards. When pups are six months old they join the pack on hunts. They usually don't make their first kill until they are around 1½ years old.
Serows look like a cross between a goat and an antelope. The south Asian species weights up to 140 kilograms, reach 1.8 meters in length and stand one meter at the shoulder, and have dagger-like horns, mule-like ears, brown, gray, black or white fur and acute vision, hearing and smell. Both males and females have horns. The horns are not shed annually like deer antlers; they are kept all year round. At the base of the horns and under their eyes are large special preorbital glands that produce smelly secretions that the animals use to mark their territory.
Serow are one of most primitive members of the goat-antelope family. Fossils of an animal remarkably similar to a serow have been found in 35 million year old rocks. The Japanese serow, or kamoshika, are endemic to Japan and are closely related to mountain goats, musk ox and chamois. A slightly related but different species of serow lives in Taiwan. They are also closely related to an other species that ranges cross the Asian mainland from Sumatra to the Himalayas and northern India to southern China.
Serow inhabit forests and scrublands, including tropical and montane environments and feed on grass, shoots and leaves. In Japan serow inhabit steep slopes of mountains forested with beech and oak. They are sure-footed on mountain slopes and comfortable in dense vegetation. Using their lips and tongues to gather food, they are ruminants and browsers that fed on tree leaves, fruits, flowers, buds, acorns and nuts. They like to eat cedar saplings and thrive in artificial forests.
Serow do not form herds. They generally live alone or in small family groups led by a male and female pair and or female. They generally say confined to a territory which covers several square kilometers. The mating season for the Japanese serow is in the autumn and winter. The gestation period is eight months. Females usually give birth to one kid between September and October. Females of the Japanese species give birth to a one or two kids between May and September. Parents are often seem nuzzling their offspring. Kids don’t have horns. They grow them when they become sexually mature at three years.
Serow are most active around dawn and dusk and spends of the day in thick vegetation. Each individual or family group has its own territory which is marked by rubbing a sticky, smelly substance — produced by special glands underneath the eyes and horns — on tree trunks and branches. The animals have pths along which they move and preferred spots where they mark their territory and deposit their droppings. The size of the territory depend on the availability of food in that area. Solitary animals generally defend a territory of 1.2 hectares. Family groups defend up to 22 hectares.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: National Geographic, Natural History magazine, Smithsonian magazine, Wikipedia, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, The Guardian, Top Secret Animal Attack Files website, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, The Economist, BBC, and various books and other publications.
Last updated April 2022