Traversing the grasslands and forest of the Indian subcontinent, the Axis deer is perhaps the most beautiful and intelligent species of deer, known by many other names such as spotted deer, chital or cheetal. The term chital comes from the Sanskrit word “Chitrala” which translates to “having spots”, similar in name to a cheetah.
Mighty and Proud
The Axis Deer is one of the largest deer when we talk about height and weight. The male deer can weigh as much as a grown human adult and grow as tall as 90 cm with magnificent three-tined antlers which are the longest of any animal. The female is generally smaller than the male, but they look equally graceful, with white spots bespeckling their golden coat.
It’s almost as if a male deer knows its stature, these deer have developed a hierarchy, where an “alpha deer” is given precedence over others for the resources. The alphas are challenged for their place in the herd by younger stags, they are known to get violent and combative during these challenges.
Let’s Be Friends
These rather intuitive species of deer are known to form the most unlikely of alliances with other animal species. A herd of deer would at times forage together with the langur monkeys. Both the monkeys and deer help protect each other from predators. The monkey with their ability to see predators from atop a tree to the deer’s keen sense of smell detecting predators from far away.
Loyal As They Come
This deer is known to be monogamous. Once the males come of age, they will fight other males, and the alpha males will have a pick of the female deer in the herd, and pair with them for extended periods.
This habit of monogamy gives this species an advantage, increasing the genetic variability as younger and stronger males get to breed. As opposed to polygamy where more than one partner is used for breeding. It limits the gene pool as the alpha male dominate and breeds with the females, leaving other males no chance to pass down their traits.
Taking Over The World!
The Axis deer is around the world, being introduced in Hawaii, Texas, California, and even Australia as a game animal but later invading the locale and out-competing the local species. Moreover, the axis deer reproduces very quickly.
Parts of the world where it is exported do not have natural predators for them. Coupled with their growth rate, these deer have toppled the natural order of these places as they have destroyed agriculture due to overgrowth and overgrazing.
These invasive qualities make it the least concerned for extinction according to the IUCN Red List. The only threat to the axis deer is habitat loss due to overgrazing and human intervention. Nevertheless, efforts by regulatory bodies have been taken to ensure the survival of this beautiful species.
Written by Hamzah Rajput (INTI International University)