Neelgai – Cursed denizen of Indian forest?

Forest is never about a single species. It is about co-habitation among various species and their inter dependence on each other. No species in less important than the other. In India predators like tiger, lion have highest attraction factor for tourist. They exude dominance and fear which makes us how realise how weak and vulnerable we humans are. On the other side there are animals like Indian Blue Bull also known as Neelgai whose presence is ignored most time or at worst declared vermin in some states of India. Born with curse?

Portrait of Neelgai (Male) – Notice horns, white beard, huge nostrils, large ears -eyes and white patch below eyes. Not to mention the sloping back with white-black hair along the ridge make it an amazing creation of God!

Neelgai is endemic species of the Indian subcontinent. The name is derived from word , “Neel” meaning blue and “Gai” meaning cow. This is because adult males have bluish grey coat and genetically come from Bovine family. They look very unique. Standing at almost 5 feet at shoulders and almost 7 feet in length and weighing up to 280 kgs it is the largest Asian Antelope.
They have noticeable body structure. They have face like goat with large nostrils with white patchy face, white bears and short horns. They have slopped back, thin legs which are very nimble and strong. They thrive in thorny scrub land with sparse undergrowth and can be found across almost parts of Indian subcontinent. Sexual dimorphism is prevalent and females look way different than males described above. Refer pictures below:

Male Neelgai smelling if his lady is in Oestrous cycle. Observe the relative size difference and color variation of male and female. One male can easily have up to 10-12 females in his harem.

Some very rarely observed behaviour of Neelgai is the cleansing and mating behaviour. Neelgai clean nostril using their tongues to ensure humidity and cleanliness. Also Neelgai are known to walk with tail raised posture when they are ready to mate. The energy just before the start of ritual is fun to watch. See images below:

Nose in check
Tail raised high indicates readiness to mate and search for female in heat.

Neelgai has average life span of 10-12 years. Males can reproduce only after age of 5. So males have limited time to spread genes which means they have no loyalty to one band of females. They would general mate from months of Oct to Feb/March to ensure calves are born in season of plenty. For given enormous size they have no natural predators. They are not routine prey base for big cats of India. Further evolution has designed them so well that no matter how short the resources these antelopes will survive any difficult situation. And thriving they are.

It is this ability of Neelgai that has brings them in war with humans. With vanishing jungles, they are known to feed on agriculture farms. They can wipe out farmlands overnight to satisfy their hunger. Many states like Maharashtra have declared them as vermin and farmers under special circumstances are allowed to shoot them. They are known to cause lot of road accident especially at dawn and dusk. This is the time they are most active.

Poor thing! We destroyed their homes, made roads through jungles and now declared them as vermin for their ability to survive and push back. It for sure was not born with curse. All nature did was gave it an ability to survive. What do you think now, Neelgai is born with curse? The spirit of wild wants to know.. !

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