Tami Nadu - Wildlife of Tamil Nadu - Ecology and Behaviour Gaur

Ecology and Behaviour Gaur

Life history and reproduction

Gaur have one calf (or occasionally two) after a gestation period of about 275 days (about nine months: a few days less than domestic cattle). Calves are typically weaned after seven to twelve months. Sexual maturity occurs in the gaur's second or third year. Breeding takes place year-round, but typically peaks between December and June. The average lifespan of a gaur is thirty years.[citation needed]

Ecology and behaviour

In the wild, gaur live in small herds of up to 40 individuals and graze on grasses, shoots and fruits. Where gaur have not been disturbed, they are basically diurnal, being most active in the morning and late afternoon and resting during the hottest time of the day. But where populations have been disturbed by human populations, gaur have become largely nocturnal, rarely seen in the open after eight in the morning. During the dry season, herds congregate and remain in small areas, dispersing into the hills with the arrival of the monsoon. While gaur depend on water for drinking, they do not seem to bathe or wallow.

Due to their formidable size and power, the gaur has few natural enemies. Saltwater Crocodiles, leopards, and dhole packs occasionally attack unguarded calves or unhealthy animals, but only the tiger has been reported to kill a full-grown adult. One of the largest bull gaur seen by George Schaller during the year 1964 in Kanha national park was killed by a tiger[3]. On the other hand, there are several cases of tigers being killed by gaur. In one instance, a tiger was repeatedly gored and trampled to death by a gaur during a prolonged battle.In another case, a large male tiger carcass was found beside a small broken tree in Nagarahole national park, being fatally struck against the tree by a large bull gaur a few days earlier. When confronted by a tiger, the adult members of a gaur herd often form a circle surrounding the vulnerable young and calves, shielding them from the big cat. A herd of gaur in Malaysia encircled a calf killed by a tiger and prevented it from approaching the carcass; while in Nagarahole, upon sensing a stalking tiger, a herd of gaur walked as a menacing phalanx towards it, forcing the tiger to retreat and abandon the hunt. Gaur are not as aggressive toward humans as Wild Asian Water Buffaloes.

A family group consists of a small mixed herd of two to 40 individuals. Gaur herds are led by an old adult female (the matriarch). Adult males may be solitary. During the peak of the breeding season, unattached males wander widely in search of receptive females. No serious fighting between males has been recorded, with size being the major factor in determining dominance. Males make a mating call of clear, resonant tones which may carry for more than 1.6 kilometres (1.0 mi). Gaur have also been known to make a whistling snort as an alarm call, and a low, cow-like moo.

The average population density is about 0.6 animals per square kilometre (1.5 animals per square mile), with herds having home ranges of around 80 square kilometres (31 sq mi).

The gaur belongs to the Bovinae subfamily, which also includes bison, domestic cattle, yak and water buffalo. In some regions in India where human disturbance is minor, the gaur is very timid and shy. When alarmed, gaur crash into the jungle at a surprising speed. However, in South-east Asia and south India, where they are used to the presence of humans, gaur are said by locals to be very bold and aggressive. They are frequently known to go down fields and graze alongside domestic cattle, sometimes killing them in fights. Gaur bulls may charge unprovoked, especially during summer time when the heat and parasitic insects make them more short-tempered than usual. To warn other members of its herd of approaching danger, the gaur lets out a high whistle for help.