- "Shun the frumious Bandersnatch!"
- ―Sangheili elder
The Bandersnatch (Pulcratherium frumiousii) is a herbivorous herd animal native to the Kaaran continent of Cloistering Expectancy. Once common across the Warrum Plains, the Bandersnatch was almost wiped out by overhunting by local Sangheili, and was long thought extinct until 2552, when a relic population was discovered in the Narteca Highlands. A vigorous recovery and reintroduction effort has seen these majestic animals restored to their native habitats, though not anywhere close to the numbers they once roamed in.
The Bandersnatch is a reptilian herbivore, that once travelled in vast herds across the Kaaran continent. Approximately eight meters long, the Bandersnatch is covered in bony platelets, as well as dermal scutes that serve as a type of natural protective chainmail. The Bandersnatch is the largest herbivore on Kaaran, reaching 14 meters in length, and possesses considerable bulk. In addition to its scales and scutes, a dense layer of fat also protects against attacks, and has demonstrated the ability to neutralise some poisons. Their legs are stout and well muscled, supporting a thickset body and a tail, which can be used to lash a nearby predator. The skull is extremely dense, protecting the brain and allowing it to head-butt predators and rivals. Their possess extremely strong jaw muscles, allowing them to snap branches off trees or, in defence, shatter bones.
Bandersnatches are herd animals, finding safety in numbers. In their hayday, they roamed the Warrum plains in herds of thousands, virtually immune from attack. Today, their last remnants, the Mountain Bandersnatch, travels through the Narteca Highlands in family groups, usually of up to twelve or less. Initial reintroduction efforts have shown that this is an environmental development – once in an open region with abundant food, herds become significantly larger. Herds are led by matriarchs, and are often comprised solely of females and their young. Once they reach maturity, male Bandersnatches leave the herd, leading solitary lives. Bandersnatches also display sexual dimorphism – males are often larger than females, at 17 meters, and possess scutes that are elongated to serve as spikes. Females show an enlargened braincase, and are slightly more intelligent than the males.
Bandersnatches were once the main prey for the Jabberwock, Cliostering Expectancy’s apex predator. As the Bandersnatch numbers dwindled, Jabberwocks were forced to search for prey in other areas, encroaching on inhabited Sangheili territory and the territories of other Jabberwocks. The loss of the Bandersnatch has seen the fractioning of the Bandersnatch population, as well as other imbalances in the ecosystems. Without the herbivores, forests have swelled and taken over former grassland. Plant species that relied on the Bandersnatch to distribute seeds and pollen have become extinct, and with them have gone nunmerous insect species. The Rath population has boomed, and they have become a pest in many areas where once they were outcompeted by the larger Bandersnatch. Today, in the Narteca Highlands their only predator is the Kaaran Snark, a subspecies introduced from Balaho.
Before its near-extinction, there many supspecies of Bandersnatch, each subtly specialising in different niches – forests, plains, marshes, riverbeds, even mountain Bandersnatches. As the Sangheili of Cloistering Expectancy spread across the continent, they hunted most of these species to extinction. Their bones served as construction materials, forming hut frameworks over which skins were laid; their meat could feed an entire family for weeks; and their fat could neutralise poisons and venoms, providing shamans with medicinal remedies. As the Bandersnatch population diminished, it became regarded as a sacred animal and was protected from further hunting, but cultural bias saw large numbers continue to be slaughtered until at last, the majority were extinct. A small relict population lives on in the Narteca Highlands, a remnants of the Mountain Bandersnatches, and as a gesture of conciliation the Nartecan Nation have allowed Morhekan biologists to study and capture a small number. A rehabilitation effort is underway, including breeding programs and limited terraforming, to reintroduce a bolstered Bandersnatch population back into the wild to restore balance to the ecosystem.