I was pleased to read in today’s Daily Yomiuri that the number of serow in Japan is increasing markedly in some areas. Exactly! What’s a serow? Capricornus Crispus, to give it its posh name is a goatey antelope thing, to give it a not-very-good-at-nature layman’s description. It stands at between 50 and 100 centimetres tall and has a mottled coat of long hair which may be white, brown, grey or black on a body that is between about 80 and 180 centimetres long. It has a white beard, long, pointy ears and a little round bushy tail. It also has horns but they are short ones, only growing to between eight and fifteen centimetres. But size isn’t everything, as one unfortunate 74-year-old woman discovered in Yamagata in 2005. She was out merrily picking flowers when a serow that had escaped from a school’s pet cage took a dislike to her and attacked her by ramming her with its horns.
Unwelcome buttings aside, the serow comes across as an endearing sort of animal. They are usually either solitary or live in small family groups where parents like to nuzzle their offspring. That sounds quite sweet. They munch happily on leaves, buds, fruit and nuts, and when they sense danger they stomp their hooves as a warning to other serow. They apparently have a clumsy gait, but this belies their sure-footedness. If being chased they can escape by fleeing down sheer rock-faces on which creatures of less competent footing, or indeed those carrying guns, will stop in fear or at least take a nasty tumble. Or they would escape if they didn’t have a terrible habit of slowing their progress by turning round to see just how close their chasers are. The poor wee souls.
Sadly, the serow is still endangered. Efforts are being made to preserve it, though. The Japanese government designated it as one of only two special ‘Natural Monument’ mammalian species in 1955 and, as such, killing any of them is now a crime. We can only hope that the good news reported in the Daily Yomiuri continues and that the serow’s survival becomes surer still. Perhaps with more prevalence we will have fewer fools like me, who upon spotting one in the wild once, could only refer to it as a ‘big goat thing’ in the mountains.
You can see one here