If you sit quietly at Lakeside in the early mornings you are likely to see one of the black-naped hare which live in the area. I took these photos this morning.
These animals prefer to live in open fields and plains where they can see predators from a great distance which makes Lakeside an ideal home (although some sub-species prefer to live in the denser forest areas where there is more cover). The hare is a nocturnal animal and spends its days lying in a scooped out hollow or ‘form’ made in a patch of grass. The hare has a pale brown coat with a black patch on the nape, and a short gray tail. The under parts are white.
The hares are not often seen in other parts of the valley, but they are common – and make up a good percentage of the diet of animals in the Reserve Forest which borders our land. The local leopard, mongoose and foxes are all partial to the taste of hare!
Farmers consider the hare to be a menace because of its love for cultivated crops – especially carrot, radish, peas and cabbage. Farmers have snared and shot these animals in the past but this made little impact on the numbers; the biggest cause for its decline in certain areas has been the destruction of areas of plant cover. The black naped hare is not endangered, but in the last three or four years the species has become the target of poachers and some wildlife experts are becoming concerned.
In the first week of September 2011 forest officials conducted a series of raids and arrested 21 poachers from Virudhunagar district in Tamil Nadu whose target was specifically the black-naped hare. The gang were using a specially made conical net with lights to attract and catch the nocturnal hares then sending the dead animals to different districts using public transport.
It used to be thought that the one or two reported cases of hare poaching was by local individuals hunting the animals for meat, but this does not account for the huge numbers which are now being hunted in some areas. The main reason seems to still be for meat (the meat is considered to be very delicate) but there are now suspicions that they are also being hunted for their skins.
The Indian Hare is the prey of many small mammals in the jungles and forests of south India including the jungle cats, mongoose, jackals and foxes. If poaching drastically cuts hare numbers it will automatically affect the population of these species too
Is it too much to hope that the only hunting of these beautiful animals will be by people like myself armed with nothing but a camera?