Chital Deer (Axis axis)
Chital are the most attractive of all the deer species and are certainly one of the most beautiful of all wild animals. Their colouring is most striking, consisting of a reddish to chestnut brown coat with white spots, a striking white upper throat patch and a black dorsal stripe which also contains white spots in a fairly uniform pattern. The belly, inside of the legs and underneath part of the tail is also white. The tail is noticeably longer than in most deer species. The muzzle is a much darker brown than the rest of the face and the ears are pointed.
A mature stag may weigh in the vicinity of 80kg and hinds considerably less. Chital are closely allied to the hog deer but they are much taller at the shoulder, standing about 86cm or a little more in the case of a big stag.
The antlers of a Chital stag are slender and usually of three points as in Sambar, Rusa and hog deer. Measurement around the main beam rarely exceeds 10cm and the two antlers usually form a ‘lyre’ shape with terminal forks. In Australia, the longest chital antlers may exceed 82cm.
Chital are natives of India and Sri Lanka where they comprise the major part of the tiger’s prey. They were the first species of deer introduced to Australia when, between 1800 and 1803, some were brought to this country by Dr. John Harris of the New South Wales Corps.
They figured prominently in later introductions in other States including several in Victoria and on the Darling Downs in Queensland. They were also released at Maryvale station near the Burdekin River, North Queensland.
Chital’s future in North Queensland has come under threat in recent years due to the declaration of all deer as a pest species in Queensland. <need comment from QLD> to the presence of appears to be relatively safe because of their economic value as a hunting resource.
Chital suffer a low level of predation by dingoes, they appear to face few problems apart from habitat limitations and seasonal conditions. They have the ability to re- cover rapidly from a decline in numbers as soon as conditions improve. Healthy Chital appear to be tick resistant possibly as a result of their fastidious grooming habits or a natural resistance to external parasites. The regulated hunting which is used as an ad- ditional form of income by station owners poses no threat to the Chital population and in fact may help to ensure their survival.