The Himalayan grey goral (Naemorhedus goral, order: Artiodactyla, sub-order: Ruminantia, family: Bovidae) is endemic to Himalayas and Hindukush ranges. The present study has been instituted to study the eco-biology of the species with reference to its distribution range extending into Pakistan with the aim of providing a base line data on population distribution and status.
The Phytosociological studies on the habitat suggest the presence of at least 99 species of endospermic plants, distributed with a low constancy of appearance with three well defined vegetation layers, Le. Tree (22 species), shrub (25), herbs (31) and grasses (21). Pinus roxburghii is the most widely distributed species. Eight vegetation communities have been identified using TWINSP AN ordination, which are distributed in different parts of the available gora habitat.
The population data collected from 98 stands through variable transects technique suggests that the species is distributed over some 4,839 km2 of the potential area with an overall density of 0.15±0.02 heads/km2. The major part of this population (around 200) is present in Azad Kashmir. The male: female sex ratio (1:1.92) suggests the preponderance of the females. There are on the average 0.31 sub-adult per adult female (0.50 in February -March, falling to 0.11-0.17 in November-December). The mean herd size is 1.72± 0.11 (summer=1.91±0.16 winter 1.38±0.10). The species is basically solitary through the individuals may aggregate into small groups. Different vegetation communities hold variable goral densities, depending upon available physico-biotic conditions. The herb and shrub cover has a positive association; while tree cover has a negative association with goral density. The goral population is present at altitude of 800-2,200 m above sea level during winter, and tends to move to 1400-2600 m as during summer.
The faecal pellet analysis and field observations suggest that goral consumes a minimum of 28 plant species; herb, shrub, and trees appearing in the ratio of 1 :36:63. The species mainly subsets on six species of grasses (Chrysopogon aucheri, Themeda anathera, Poa pratensis, Digitaria decemnens, Apluda mutica, Aristida cyanatha), though leaves of the shrubs (Rubus ellpticus, Ipomoea hispida, Carisa opaca, Dodenaea viscose, Buxus sempervirens, Mimose rubicaulis, M africana) are preferred to different degrees. The food plants provide 77.85±2.56% water, 8.55±0.38% ash, 6.77±0.06% carbohydrates, and 5.5% ±0.25% protein and 1.28±0.08% fats. The food provides 4.440 kcal of energy and 5.45 I of water per day to the adult goral.
The behavioural studies conducted on goral maintained in semi-captive conditions suggest that the sub-adult spends 33.48%, 12.22%, 20.24%, 22.16% and 7.92% of time while sleeping, ruminating, resting, feeding and agnostic activities, respectively. The adults spend 24.88%, 26.48%, 14.09%, 8.06% and 13.42% of the time on such activities. The species spends major part of the night while sleeping, has a crepuscular feeding behaviour and goes for the day time rest during the hotter parts of the day. The limited field observations showed that the gorals remain vigilant to environmental changes while feeding, ruminating and resting. The species also prefers to go for drinking from a source of running water rather than from that of stagnant water. Gorals mainly depends upon camouflaging and threat behaviour for its defence.
The analysis of the species biology suggests that it has a vulnerable status as per IUCN criteria, having a fragmented population of less than 1,000 individuals. The goral, as a species has full potentials of its survival under the available habitat conditions. The future management would require protection to fawns in the protected areas, creation of habitat corridors, international cooperation to provide support to the population surviving in Indian part of the distribution range of the species, habitat management and arousing public cooperation through awareness campaign.