Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

Throughout most of the year, female Eld's deer are solitary, or occur in pairs with their young, (10), except during the mating season when females and their young congregate in herds of up to 50 individuals (2). Males are also generally solitary, except during spring when mating begins (6). The breeding season in China is from February to June, with a single fawn (occasionally twins) born from September to January, after a gestation of around 34 weeks; in India, calving occurs from mid-October to the end of December (6). The Thailand brow-antlered deer (C. e. siamensis) and the Burmese brow-antlered deer (C. e. thamin) breed from February to April and give birth between October and November (10). Like most cervids, mothers hide their young immediately after birth, concealing them in the long grass. Young are weaned at around five months and become sexually mature at one and a half to two years of age (2). Eld's deer are active most of the time, but tend to seek shelter from the midday sun (10). This deer species undergo short migrations in order to find water during the dry season and food during the growing season (9). Eld's deer are closely associated with areas that are seasonally burned, eating the new grasses that emerge after the burn (9). The diet includes a variety of grasses, fruit, herbaceous and wetland plants and this species is known to graze and browse opportunistically on cultivated crops from nearby fields, such as rice, lentils, maize, peas and rape (2) (9).
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Description

Eld's deer is known for the impressive bow or lyre shaped antlers of the stags, which sweep back in a single, long curve, with a smaller branch growing towards the front of the head (5). The antlers are replaced every year, and reach their largest size during the breeding season (3). This majestic species possesses the usual elegant stature of Cervus deer with its long, thin legs, slender body, short tail and large ears (2). The coarse coat is reddish-brown to grey (3), with paler underparts, redder in summer, and darker brown in winter (2) (3). Stags are larger and heavier than females, tend to be darker in colour, and possess a thick mane of long hair around the neck (2). Young Eld's deer have white spots that eventually fade and disappear (3).
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Distribution

Range Description

This species was formerly widely distributed across suitable habitats of South and Southeast Asia, from the Manipur region of northeastern India through much of Myanmar, Thailand, Lao PDR, Cambodia, and Viet Nam to the island of Hainan (China) in the east (Salter and Sayer 1986; Grubb 2005). The historical range was broken into four major components, consisting of the Manipur region of India inhabited by R. e. eldii; R. e. thamin on the central plains of Myanmar; R. e. siamensis populations in the lowlands of Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam (separated by the mountains along the Thai?Myanmar border from R. e. thamin); and the population on Hainan and former populations in mainland southern China, which appear to have been disjunct outliers of R. e. siamensis, separated from its main range by mountainous terrain in Lao PDR and Viet Nam.

The global Eld?s deer population is currently very localised to small areas within the species' former range. R. e. eldii is now confined to a single small population at the southern end of Loktak Lake in Manipur, India (Singh 2004). R. e. thamin still occurs in several localised areas of central Myanmar, as well as there being introduced populations in Thailand (McShea et al. 2000; Aung 2004; Naris Bhumpakphan et al. 2004). R. e. siamensis occurs in one or two small localised populations in Lao PDR (Johnson et al. 2004), and as scattered small subpopulations mainly in the northern and eastern lowlands of Cambodia (Tordoff et al. 2005), and occurs in a relatively wild state in one protected area on Hainan, with additionally several other managed herds on that island (Pang et al. 2003).
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Geographic Range

Eld's deer (Rucervus eldii) are indigenous to Southeast Asia. They were discovered in the Manipur Valley of India in 1838 by Lieutenant Percy Eld. Three recognized subspecies of R. eldii exist today. They are Rucervus eldii eldii in Manipur, Rucervus eldii thamin, previously in Burma/Myanmar and the Malay Peninsula, and Rucervus eldii siamensis, in Thailand, Annam, and Hainan island. The subspecies Rucervus eldii thamin is now restricted to Burma/Myanmar. Rucervus eldii siamensis is found throughout Hainan island . Some individuals of R. eldii live as far north as 48°N. Eld's deer have also been documented in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.

Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native ); oriental (Native )

  • Yan Ling, S. 1996. Population Viability Analysis for Two Isolated Populations of Hainan Eld's deer. Conservation Biology, 10(5): 1467-1472.
  • Wildt, D., C. Wemmer. 1999. Sex and Wildlife: The Role of Reproductive Science in Conservation. Biodiversity and Conservation, 8(7): 965-976.
  • Monfort, S., C. Wemmer, T. Kepler, M. Bush, J. Brown. 1990. Monitoring Ovarian Function and Pregnancy in the Eld's deer (*Cervus eldi thamin*) by Evaluating Urinary Steroid Metabolite Excretion. Journal of Reproduction & Fertility, 88: 271-281.
  • McCracken, K. 1996. At the Zoo: Saving the Skittish Eld's Deer. Zoogoer, 25(3). Accessed (Date Unknown) at http://www.fonz.org/zoogoer/zg1996/eld'sdee.htm.
  • McShea, W., P. Leimgruber, M. Aung, S. Monfort, C. Wemmer. 1999. Range Collapse of a Tropical Cervid (*Cervus eldi*) and the Extent of Remaining Habitat in Central Myanmar. Animal Conservation, 2(3): 173-183. Accessed (Date Unknown) at http://www.csa.com/htbin/linkabst.cgi?issn=1367-9430&vol=2&firstpage=173.
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Range

Eld's deer is indigenous to South and Southeast Asia, with three, geographically isolated subspecies recognised today (1) (9). The Manipur brow-antlered deer (C. e. eldii) is confined to a small population in Manipur, India; the Thailand brow-antlered deer (C. e. siamensis) is found in Cambodia, Hainan Island (China), Lao People's Democratic Republic and was also recorded in Thailand and Viet Nam, where it is now believed to be regionally extinct; the Burmese brow-antlered deer (C. e. thamin) occurs in central Myanmar and is now believed to be extinct in western Thailand (1) (10).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Adults weigh between 70 and 130 kg. Eld's deer have selenodont teeth, a large body and foregut fermentation type of digestion.

Eld's deer, like many other cervids, have a reddish brown to gray colored coat. They are similar in size to white-tailed deer, but differ somewhat in appearance. They have uniquely shaped antlers that are replaced every year. The antlers of Eld's deer are shaped in one continuous curve from the pedicle on the head to the very tip of the antler. There is a lesser branch of the antler that is positioned directly off the pedicel that grows in the direction of the front of the head.

Range mass: 70 to 130 kg.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: male larger; ornamentation

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Populations in Lao PDR, Viet Nam and Cambodia seems to have occurred in a variety of primarily open, grass dominated habitats. Most evidence of presence comes from Deciduous Dipterocarp Forests which primarily occur in the highly monsoonal areas of the Mekong plains (Wharton 1957; Tordoff et al. 2005; R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008), but historical populations known from, for instance, the Nakai and Bolaven plateaux of Lao PDR appear to have used a mosaic of small grasslands and wetlands amongst pine, semi-evergreen and other forest types, and those known from the Dalat and Kirirom plateaux would seemingly have occurred in more extensive pine?savanna habitats (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008). The species may also have occurred in northern Lao PDR, where suitable habitat is localised to a few plains amid the generally unsuitable rugged densely forested terrain but no conclusive records have been traced (Duckworth et al. 1999), and would have presumably inhabited Mixed Deciduous Forests and grasslands of anthropogenic origin, as Deciduous Dipterocarp Forest does not occur in such northern areas (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008). Populations in Deciduous Dipterocarp Forest appear to favour open-canopy formations, with grass dominated understory, especially areas with extensive grassland patches (mainly hydrological in origin), and avoid closed-canopy formations where small deciduous bamboos predominate in the understory (Timmins and Ou 2001; Timmins et al. 2003; Tordoff et al. 2005; R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008). Given the highly seasonal nature of such forest areas, permanent wetlands, usually in the form of forest pools or stream bed pools, are likely to be very significant to the species and the densities of animals that a given area can support (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008). Despite suggestions to the contrary in some sources, there is no evidence that Eld?s deer in these countries are particularly wetland associated, nor is there evidence that the species reached high densities in floodplain tall grasslands (contrary to the case with hog deer) (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008). The hydrological grasslands that the species appears often to associate with are favoured over forest for conversion to rice paddies, and the paddies likewise appear attractive to the deer. Males appear to be fond of wallowing. Anecdotal evidence suggests that deer do not make substantial movements and tend to remain year round within relatively small areas (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008). Lekagul and McNeely (1988) suggested that Eld?s deer had been ?driven? into drier areas by hunting and habitat destruction. However, this is clearly not the case in Cambodia where historically Eld?s deer were considered one of the most abundant species in the open seasonally very dry forests of the north and east (Wharton 1957).

The Loktak lake population in Manipur, India, inhabits an area of floating marsh called locally ?phumdi? (Singh 1983; 2004). This population has adaptations of the feet which are thought to help the animals move easily in their marshland habitat (Pocock 1943), but Pocock (1943) speculated that elsewhere in north-east India Eld?s deer would also have occupied drier plains.

In Myanmar most Eld?s deer occur in indaing forest, which is usually dominated by the tree Dipterocarpus tuberculatus, and is structurally and ecologically fairly equivalent to the Deciduous Dipterocarp Forest of Indochina and Thailand. There are two other types of deciduous forests used by the deer in Myanmar, dry (thandahat), and mixed (teak). All three forest types receive 100?200 cm of rainfall a year (Prescott 1987; Bronson 1989; McShea et al. 1999, 2001; Myint Aung et al. 2001). Pristine habitat is now absent within the Myanmar range of Eld?s deer and all populations use habitats at various stages of secondary succession (McShea et al. 2005).

The ecology of animals in Myanmar is likely to be similar to those in Indochina and Thailand reflecting the similarities in habitat, with dry-season movement closely correlated with the locations of water sources (Prescott, 1987; McShea et al. 1999, 2001). At the Hlawga wildlife park just outside Yangon, Myanmar, many species of Myanmar?s native wildlife have been introduced. In contrast to hog deer, sambar and northern red muntjac, which have all increased to good populations, Eld?s deer has failed to establish itself within this small fenced area. This is attributed by staff, including a past veterinarian, to the area being too humid (it is said to be outside the native range of Eld?s deer) although this has not been confirmed.

The typical habitat of Eld?s deer in Hainan Island is scrubland and dry grassland together with sparse trees in hills below 200 m asl in altitude (Zeng et al. 2005).

Eld?s deer feeds on grass and some browse and also take fallen fruits and flowers, and reportedly can live without water for several days. Eld?s deer regularly visits salt licks. Stags are generally solitary except during the rut, while hinds congregate throughout most of the year (Gee 1961; Myint Aung pers. comm. 1996). Wharton (1957) recorded large herds in Cambodia in the 1950s, and Lekagul and McNeely (1988) stated that, prior to hunting reductions, herds of over 50 formed. In Keibul Lamjao National Park, R. e. eldii is thought to move from the ?phumdi? to island hillocks during periods of flooding (Green 1990). In China, the rut is during February?June, with a single fawn born from September to January. In India, calving occurs from mid-October to the end of December. Gestation period is between 237 and 240 days, and sexual maturity is reached at approximately 1.5?2.0 years (Wemmer and Grodinsky 1988).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
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The main habitat for Eld's deer is referred to as an indaing forest and is usually dominated by the tree Dipterocarpus tuberculatus. Indaing refers to sandy, flat terrain that floods seasonally. The range of Eld's deer also includes monsoonal forest. Rucervus eldii thamin is found in a variety of habitats, ranging from dry scrub and thorn forest to open deciduous forest. There are three main types of deciduous forests in southeastern Asia: dipterocarp (indaing), dry (thandahat), and mixed (teak). All three of these receive between 100 and 200 cm of rainfall a year.

The ability of Eld's deer to obtain adequate amounts of nutrients to sustain both the bone growth and body mass of males, and the gestation and lactation needs of females, depends heavily on the types and abundances of food sources in the habitat. Rucervus eldii exhibits seasonal movements that are slightly correlated with crop cycles. They tend to wander farther from crop land during the hot-dry season, mainly because they are moving closer to existing water holes.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; chaparral ; forest ; scrub forest

Other Habitat Features: agricultural

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The Manipur brow-antlered deer (C. e. eldii) inhabits areas of floating vegetation known as “phumdi”, while the Thailand brow-antlered deer (C. e. siamensis) and the Burmese brow-antlered deer (C. e. thamin) are found in dry dipterocarp forest (11) (12), lowland valleys and plains, (avoiding dense forest and coastal areas), and occasionally seasonally flooded forest (2) (6) (11).
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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Rucervus eldii is a species known to graze and browse opportunistically on wild fruits and cultivated crops from nearby fields. A few commonly eaten crops are rice, lentils, maize, peas and rape. Rucervus eldii thamin tends to eat the fruits of various woody species such as Emblica officinalis, Terminalia chebula, and Diospyrous burmanica. They also eat forbs and grasses in these areas.

Rucervus eldii is closely associated with areas that are seasonally burned. These deer eat the new grasses as they emerge after the burn.

Feeding may vary seasonally, not just with food availability, but with reproductive considerations. During rut males, experience a decline in body weight. This is proably due to a decrease in their food intake.

All cervids are foregut fermentators. This means that they have four-chambered stomachs, and are able to extract the majority of the nutrients offered by their poor quality food source.

Plant Foods: leaves; wood, bark, or stems; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit

Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore )

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Rucervus eldii plays an important role in dispersing seeds due to its dependence upon fruit as a food source. This species is probably also important in structuring plant communities as a result of its browsing behavior.

Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds

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Predation

One anti-predator adaptation of R. eldii is periodically forming large groups or herds, even though these deer are usually solitary creatures. Large groups decrease the risk of predation, both by increasing the chance that a predator will kill a neighboring animals rather than a lone individual, and by the increased vigilance for predators which can be provided by all members of the group.

The most common predators of R. eldii are tigers, leopards, and dholes. But only the latter two predators still exist in abundant numbers in the present range of this deer. Jackals and occasionally feral dogs also hunt R. eldii. Poaching by humans is a serious problem to Eld's deer populations.

Known Predators:

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Known predators

Cervus eldii is prey of:
Homo sapiens
Panthera pardus
Panthera tigris
Cuon alpinus
Canis lupus familiaris

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Most cervids have numerous glands on their feet, legs, and faces. These scent glands are used for intraspecific communication. Males often use chemosignaling through urine and feces to inform females that they are in reproductive condition. Not only do cervids utilize chemosignaling, they also use sight and touch. This is mostly commonly displayed before breeding when their antlers are at their largest. Rucervus eldii does not use combat as its primary mode of hierarchy, but it is sometimes necessary to fend off a competing male.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: scent marks

Perception Channels: visual ; acoustic

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

The maximum recorded longevity of a R. e. siamensis male in captivity is 14 years and 11 months. Females can live up to 19 years and 7 months in captivity.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
19 (high) years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 20.5 years (captivity) Observations: In zoos, these animals can live up to 20.5 years (Richard Weigl 2005).
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Reproduction

Rucervus eldii exhibits polygynous mating.

Mating System: polygynous

Rucervus eldii females can begin reproducing at 2 years of age and typically continue to reproduce until they are 10 years of age. They begin estrus in the late winter or early spring. They exhibit a long period of ovarian activity of 225 to 342 days, during which the females average 10 to 17 estrous cycles. Then after they have mated, females enter anestrus. This is just the opposite of estrus, and is a period when they are not sexually receptive. This cycle occurs in the autumn months. Some studies have shown that the presence of males triggers ovarian function in females.

The proportion of males to females at birth tends to be a 1:1. The average gestation period for Eld's deer is about 34 weeks or 8 and a half months. Females of the subspecies R. eldii siamensis have been shown to give birth annually for up to 6 consecutive years. Females are fertile for a maximum of 12 to 14 years. Most births of R. e. siamensis occur between October and November (75 percent if 171 reported births). Of all births, 94 percent occurred betweem October 1 to February 28. About 92 percent of births involve single young, while the remaining 8 percent are twins. Most twins are apparently stillborn or die within a few days of birth.

The average weight of a newborn from the subspecies R. e. thamin is between 4.7 and 4.8 kg. Newborns of R. e. eldii are slightly larger, averaging between 4.7 and 6 kg. The young are weaned at about 5 months of age.

Breeding interval: Eld's deer tend to breed once per year.

Breeding season: Breeding occurs from February to May.

Range number of offspring: 1 to 2.

Average number of offspring: 1.

Average gestation period: 7.93 months.

Range weaning age: 4 to 6 months.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); fertilization ; viviparous

Like most cervids, R. eldii mothers hide their young immediately after birth. Females typically give birth during the cool-dry season when the flood waters have receded and vegetation has begun to grow. This provides the young with shelter and helps to conceal them.

After 4 to 5 months, the fawns are weaned. By the end of time of weaning, the climate has changed to the hot-dry season, and the deer tend to migrate. The 4 to 5 month nursing period allows fawns to have sufficient time to increase their mobility, so they are able to travel with the herd.

Fawns are primarily raised by their mothers. Males are around, usually watching over the herd, but they do not participate in most of the parental care.

Parental Investment: no parental involvement; altricial ; pre-fertilization (Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Protecting: Male, Female)

  • Bronson, F. 1989. Mammalian Reproductive Biology. Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press.
  • Hosack, D., K. Miller, R. Marchinton, C. Wemmer, S. Monfort. 1998. Stag Exposure Augments Progestagen Excretion in Eld's deer(*Cervus eldi thamin*). Mammalia, 62: 341-350.
  • Prescott, J. 1987. The Status of the Thailand Brow-Antlered Deer (*Cervus eldi siamensis*) in Captivity. Mammalia, 51(4): 571-577.
  • Yan Ling, S. 1996. Population Viability Analysis for Two Isolated Populations of Hainan Eld's deer. Conservation Biology, 10(5): 1467-1472.
  • Monfort, S., C. Wemmer, T. Kepler, M. Bush, J. Brown. 1990. Monitoring Ovarian Function and Pregnancy in the Eld's deer (*Cervus eldi thamin*) by Evaluating Urinary Steroid Metabolite Excretion. Journal of Reproduction & Fertility, 88: 271-281.
  • Aung, M., W. McShea, S. Htung, A. Than, T. Soe. 2001. Ecology and Social Organization of a Tropical Deer (*Cervus eldi thamin*). Journal of Mammalogy, 82(3): 836-847. Accessed (Date Unknown) at http://www.bioone.org/bioone/?request=get-document&issn=0022-2372&volume=082&issue=03&page=0836.
  • Hosack, D., K. Miller, R. Marchinton, S. Monfort. 1997. Ovarian Activity in Captive Eld's deer (Cervus eldi thamin). Journal of Mammalogy, 78(2): 669-674.
  • McCracken, K. 1996. At the Zoo: Saving the Skittish Eld's Deer. Zoogoer, 25(3). Accessed (Date Unknown) at http://www.fonz.org/zoogoer/zg1996/eld'sdee.htm.
  • McShea, W., M. Aung, D. Poszig, C. Wemmer, S. Monfort. 2001. Forage, Habitat Use, and Sexual Segregation by a Tropical Deer (*Cervus eldi thamin*) in a Dipterocarp Forest. Journal of Mammalogy, 82(3): 848-857. Accessed (Date Unknown) at http://www.bioone.org/bioone/?request=get-document&issn=0022-2372&volume=082&issue=03&page=0848.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Cervus eldii

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 6
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Barcode data: Rucervus eldii

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


No available public DNA sequences.

Download FASTA File
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Rucervus eldii

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
EN
Endangered

Red List Criteria
A2cd+3cd+4cd

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Timmins, R.J. & Duckworth, J.W.

Reviewer/s
Black, P.A. & Gonzalez, S. (Deer Red List Authority)

Contributor/s

Justification
The species is considered EN based on estimated rates of decline which, averaged across the species, exceed 50% in three generations (presumed to be at least 15 years; see Song (1996). There are two numerically significant units (defined through threat profile, recent history and short-term prospects, not as populations in any demographically meaningful sense) of wild Eld?s deer, R. e. thamin in Myanmar and R. e. siamensis of Cambodia, Lao and Viet Nam (of which the overwhelming majority of animals are in Cambodia). Numbers in India are numerically less significant for determining species-level population trends and the semi-captive herds in Hainan (now increasing) are excluded as are introduced Thai populations. This population decline is due primarily to hunting, especially of Cambodian?Lao?Viet Namese stocks where declines probably exceed 90%, primarily in the past, although they are ongoing and are expected to continue into the short-term future (until all animals are lost from outside those protected areas which succeed in stabilising Eld?s deer populations). The Myanmar population also declined over the same period, perhaps not as dramatically, and is still declining. The Manipur population is increasing, but its small size (under 250) and threatened habitat in a single small protected area leave little cause for long-term optimism. The resultant categorization as EN is thus a compromise taking into account the widely different statuses and conservation trends in the geographically isolated and distinct populations of this species, but with more weight on remnant wild populations, rather than those in managed or introduced situations.

History
  • 1996
    Vulnerable
    (Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
  • 1996
    Vulnerable
  • 1996
    Critically Endangered
  • 1994
    Vulnerable
    (Groombridge 1994)
  • 1990
    Vulnerable
    (IUCN 1990)
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All three subspecies of R. eldii have become threatened. Conservation of these deer in tropical regions is difficult because of the fragmentation of their forest home caused by farming. These deer are a targer for poaching, as they can be used for food, trophies, and "traditional" medicinal products. The increase of the human population within the range of this species puts a additional stress upon these animals. There is a lack of funding for protection.

One of the subspecies, R. e. eldii, has become so rare that survival will eventually rely on the practice of gene exchange of the wild and captive organisms by means of assisted reproduction. This type of assisted breeding is being used in Thailand and Burma/Myanmar on the other subspecies as well.

Poaching reduced the R. e. siamensis population from a reported 500 individuals in 1964, to 26 in 1976. Hainan Datian Nature Reserve was established to help R. e. siamensis recover, and the population increased to 151 individuals by 1986.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: appendix i

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: endangered

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Status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1), and listed on Appendix I of CITES (4). Subspecies: Cervus eldii eldii (Manipur brow-antlered deer) is classified as Critically Endangered (CR), C. e. siamensis (Thailand brow-antlered deer) is classified as Data Deficient (DD) and C. e. thamin (Burmese brow-antlered deer) is classified as Lower Risk / Near Threatened (LR/nt) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).
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Population

Population
Based on both habitat extent and size of remaining patches, Myanmar and Cambodia are the pre-eminent countries for Eld's deer (McShea et al. 2005). However, the actual status of remaining populations is more related to hunting levels.

In Cambodia Eld?s deer still occurs over a relatively wide area, although localised within this, surviving as small remnant groups in the lowland forests of the north and east. The total population could well be several thousand animals in a forest area that probably exceeds 20,000 km², but densities are extremely low (Tordoff et al. 2005; R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008). Survey work in appropriate habitat in the last decade has detected populations in at least 15 separate areas, with anecdotal evidence from several more areas (McShea et al. 2005; Tordoff et al. 2005; Bird et al. 2006; Timmins 2006; Bezuijen et al. in press). A few may remain in the southwest, although there is little evidence other than for one small population in the Phnom Aural area which persisted until at least the late 1990s (Henshaw et al. 2002; Tordoff et al. 2005). Declines since the late 1950s, when large herds were still readily seen (Wharton 1957), have been dramatic. Even in the last decade or so, the species has declined by 90% or more, given comparisons of aerial counts in 1994 with ground survey results from 1998 to the present (Olivier and Woodford 1994; Timmins and Ou 2001; Timmins et al. 2003; R.J Timmins pers. comm. 2008). Declines are likely to continue into the future, especially as most remnant groups and animals live either outside protected areas, or in protected areas with little active management. At least a 50% decline in the next 10?15 years seems likely. Populations in the Srepok Wilderness Area, the Siema Biodiversity Conservation Area, the Preah Vihear Protection Forest, Ang Trapeang Thmor Conservation Area and Kulen Wildlife Sanctuary are likely to remain stable and may potentially increase due to ongoing externally funded conservation area management projects (WWF unpublished data; WCS unpublished data; R. J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008).

R. e. thamin was still relatively widespread and abundant during the mid-1980s on the plains of central and northern Myanmar, where its range centred on the Irrawaddy Plain, including the Bago or Sittang Plain to the east. It was said to be present to the southeast, along the Thai border (Salter and Sayer 1986), and along the western border with Bangladesh (Lekagul and McNeely 1977), but these records are doubtful and a questionnaire in 1992 and surveys in 1997 could only find evidence for the species in the northeast (McShea et al. 2000). In 1992 a countrywide questionnaire was distributed by the then Wildlife Department of Myanmar, this resulted in reports of Eld?s deer from 28 Myanmar townships, and 2,200 Eld?s deer were estimated to remain within Myanmar, with the largest population (over 1,200 deer) in Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary (Myint Aung 1994; McShea et al. 2000). Regular transect surveys in Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary between 1983 and 1996 indicated a population decline of upwards of 40% (McShea et al. 2000), with a population estimated at about 500 deer in the latter years (Myint Aung pers. comm. 1996). A nationwide survey of Myanmar in 1997 found evidence of Eld?s deer within 23 of 24 townships surveyed, out of the 28 that were reported to contain Eld?s deer in 1992. The four unsurveyed townships were considered very unlikely to still harbour deer because of the little remaining habitat within them (McShea et al. 2000). By 2003 a repeat of the 1992 surveys concluded that deer had disappeared from four townships and had declined in at least another four, but there were signs that in some townships populations were stable or even increasing (Myint Aung 2004). Increases and decreases were in part put down to reforestation efforts and habitat loss respectively (Myint Aung 2004). Conditions in Myanmar for Eld?s deer have deteriorated in the most recent years. At Shwesettaw Wildlife Sanctuary, favourable habitat has been taken over by agriculture. Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary is now the only viable population with nominal protection, and habitat currently appears more secure, but protection efforts appear to be failing, at least partly reflecting changes in management. Since funding from the Smithsonian Institution ceased in 2003, the amount of patrolling and the Eld?s deer population have both decreased every year (W. McShea pers. comm. 2008); a causal link seems inescapable. A population detected on the outskirts of Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park was never protected by inclusion in the national park, and elsewhere in the country other populations and large blocks of suitable habitat have not been gazetted into the protected area system despite hopes that they would be (McShea et al. 2000; W. McShea pers. comm. 2008). No large populations have been found outside of Chatthin WS, and indeed all new populations detected in recent years have been based on sporadic records in planted teak forests, with numbers too low to attempt any empirical estimate of population (W. McShea pers. comm. 2008). The rate of net removal of forest is high within Eld?s deer range, even taking into consideration efforts to plant teak, giving further cause for concern (W. McShea pers. comm. 2008).

In Lao PDR there are one or two known populations. One (of probably under 100 animals) is in Savannakhet province (central Lao PDR) and has been the focus of a small-scale species-specific conservation project, with regular subjective monitoring of the population (Johnson et al. 2004; A. Johnson pers. comm. 2007). Activities lapsed in 2007, but options are being assessed for restarting support. In the late 1990s another small population, of probably the low dozens of animals, was found from Champasak Province, far south-western Lao PDR, in areas adjacent to the Dong Khanthung Provincial Protected Area, but there has been no recent re-evaluation of the site and it is quite plausible that the species has been hunted out there (Round 1998; Duckworth et al. 1999; A. Johnson pers. comm. 2007; R. J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008). It is unlikely, given the distribution of suitable habitat, the distribution of the human population, and the pervasive hunting culture in Lao PDR that any more significant populations of the species remain to be found (R.J. Timmins pers. obs.); lowland Savannakhet province was the only unprotected part of Lao PDR where in Duckworth et al. (1999: 41) recommended additional surveys of large mammals as likely to reveal new conservation priorities. One population was indeed found but since that was written, options for others have greatly declined due to extensive road-building, conversion of remaining dry forest habitat and assignment of much of the rest to plantation concessions (particularly on the western plains of the province) and continued extremely high levels of trade-driven large mammal hunting make the chances of any others remaining now very low (J.W. Duckworth in litt. 2008 from field assessment in late 2007).

Survival in Viet Nam is now very doubtful. Eld?s deer is still reported by local inhabitants (e.g. as reported in Nguyen Xuan Dang and Nguyen Thi Thuy (2004), but field surveys of such areas have failed to find the species (Do Tuoc pers. comm. 2006). Perhaps a few animals remain along the border with Cambodia (Do Tuoc pers. comm. 2006), but repeated recent surveys of one of the more promising areas, Yok Don National Park, has not produced good evidence (Le Xuan Canh et al. 1997; Eames et al. 2004). The reported distributions given by Dang Huy Huynh (1990) and Ratajszczak (1991) were either overly optimistic and based on unverified evidence, or indicate a recent swift decline in the species in Viet Nam; probably both factors are responsible.

Continued presence of ancestral wild populations in Thailand is also now very unlikely. Very occasional reports, which are largely unverifiable, continue to be made, primarily in the Thailand?Lao PDR?Cambodia triborder area, and the Huai Kha Khaeng WS (e.g. Naris Bhumpakphan et al. 2004). At best a few remnant individuals may survive or immigrate. The Thai Royal Forestry Department has a captive breeding programme for both R. e. thamin and R. e. eldii and there have been attempts at introduction of the former in two areas (where it was never a native subspecies); numbers living in a ?wild state? are in the low tens (Naris Bhumpakphan et al. 2004).

Although once distributed in the tropical zone of southwest Yunnan and further east, the South China Eld?s deer has long been extirpated (Smith et al. in press; Zeng et al. 2005). By the 1970s the only remaining Chinese populations were on Hainan and had declined to some 40 animals in Dong Fang and Bai Sha Counties, primarily due to poaching, from a reported 500 individuals in 1950s (Zeng et al. 2005). In 1976 two protected areas, the Datian Nature Reserve, and the Bangxi NR, West Hainan, were founded around the two last remaining isolated herds of deer, with 26 and 20 animals respectively (Song and Zeng 2004; Pang et al. 2003; Zeng et al. 2005). By 1981 the Bangxi NR population had been exterminated by poaching (Zeng et al. 2005). The animals in Datian NR were kept in fenced enclosures while the population grew, and at the current time the whole c. 13 km² of the reserve is enclosed (Song 1996; Pang et al. 2003; Zeng et al. 2005). Initial problems with conservation efforts at Datian included encroachment of almost half its habitat by agriculture since its establishment, deer deaths through drought and overcrowding in small enclosures, and some poaching (Pang et al. 2003; Zeng et al. 2005). By 1991 the Chinese population had rebounded to 346 animals, of which 261 were within the Datian Nature Reserve (Yuan et al. 1993). By 2003 there were about 1,000 animals in Datian NR, and beginning in 1986 captive and semi-wild populations were established at other facilities, the total population in which was approximately 260 animals in 2003 (Song and Zeng 2004; Zeng et al. 2005). A semi-wild herd was founded once again in Bangxi NR, and by 2002 the population there was reportedly 115 animals (Zeng et al. 2005). In 2003 a third ?wild? herd was founded in Mihouling Reserve (Song and Zeng 2004; Zeng et al. 2005).

In India, R. e. eldii was thought to be extinct in the early 1950s but was subsequently rediscovered. By 1975, the only remaining wild population had declined to about 14 animals in the swamps of Loktak Lake, Manipur (Ranjitsinh 1978). On this basis, a floating marsh on the southern end of Loktak Lake was gazetted in 1977 as the Keibul Lamjao National Park (Ranjitsinh 1978). The population was reported to have increased to about 137 by 1994 (Singsit 1994; Singh 2004), and by 2003 censuses indicated a total of about 180 animals (Singh 2004). There are additionally similar numbers in captive conditions in India (Salter and Sayer 1986; Decoux 1993).

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
In Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam the most obvious threat to Eld?s deer is hunting, which in addition to local consumption of meat is driven by a thriving and probably increasing trade in bushmeat, a national, regional and East Asian market for traditional medicinal products derived from the species, and a regional international market for trophy antlers (Duckworth et al. 1999; Timmins and Ou 2001; Tordoff et al. 2005; Zeng et al. 2005). The influence of traditional medicinal trade is uncertain, but may be very significant as products derived from the species are reportedly more valuable than are those from other deer (Zeng et al. 2005). Some hunting in Cambodia is probably also driven by a demand for captive animals especially from zoos and menageries in Thailand and Cambodia (Salter and Sayer 1986; R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008). The species is apparently easy to hunt compared with other sympatric deer, and fawns are likely to be very vulnerable to dogs which almost always accompany human parties during forest visits, even when the visits are not for hunting (Tordoff et al. 2005; R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008). The effects of hunting have been exacerbated by forest loss and fragmentation which is rapidly accelerating with human population in-migration, infrastructural developments (especially roads), commercial agricultural expansion, economic land speculation and mineral extraction. Selective logging was initially one of the main driving forces, but it is now of relatively minor concern (Tordoff et al. 2005; R. J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008). Human in-migration and subsequent agricultural encroachment into forest areas tends to concentrate on those habitats most used by Eld?s deer, and thus the species has suffered more than most from hunting (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008; Tordoff et al. 2005). As an inhabitant of relatively open habitat through which travel and transport are easy, it is also likely to have been more heavily affected by a given level of hunting effort compared with species of rugged, dense hill evergreen forest; a similar scenario has been postulated for Jungle Cat Felis chaus (Duckworth et al. 2005; R. J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008). Habitat loss per se is generally a lesser threat (especially in recent decades), and although huge tracts of suitable habitat have been lost in the last century, at least in Lao PDR, Cambodia and Viet Nam this has probably largely occurred after Eld?s deer have been hunted out (Duckworth et al. 1999).

Probably the most significant challenge to conserving the species in Lao PDR, Cambodia and Viet Nam is the uncertainty involved with long-term protected-area based conservation management. Protected areas, even those that at present have relatively active and effective management, face an uncertain future with the possibility of excision of conservation status for parts or all of some, the lack of long-term security in external funding adequate to maintain high standards of management, fluctuations in political support necessary to uphold high protection standards and the consequential difficulties of maintaining a motivated and well-trained staff. Currently most protected areas that could or do support Eld?s deer in Lao PDR, Cambodia and Viet Nam offer the species little if, any, protection (exceptions are listed under Conservation Measures).

Protected areas, primarily those along the triborder area of Thailand where it adjoins both Lao PDR and Cambodia, and the Huai Kha Khaeng WS, were unable to prevent the decline and likely extirpation of Eld?s deer from the wild in Thailand (see Bhumpakphan et al. 2004). This decline was likely to have been driven by much the same reasons as in Indochina. If any Eld?s deer do remain in the wild there, it seems unlikely that they will ever recover unassisted. There are few data on the introduced populations of R. e. thamin to non-native areas (see Bhumpakphan et al. 2004).

Threats to the species in Myanmar appear to be similar to those in Indochina, with perhaps more emphasis on exploitation for meat (Salter and Sayer 1986; Myint Aung pers. comm. 1997). Habitat loss in some range areas is still ongoing (Myint Aung 2004) and Koy et al. (2005) found that ?patterns of percentage tree canopy-cover were negatively correlated with human population density, suggesting further threats to Eld's deer populations as the human population continues to grow?. A support programme for the main site, Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary, had an encouraging start but following cessation of external funding the population is now in decline (see Population), while other protected areas in the country either failed to include appropriate habitat for the species (e.g. Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park) or failed to protect the habitat even within the protected area (e.g. Shwesettaw Wildlife Sanctuary). Overall, the challenges of generating functional protected areas which will sustain Eld?s deer are similar to, and under current conditions even more daunting than, those outlined for Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam (above). In general, protected areas in Myanmar are themselves highly threatened by major shortfalls in funding and political will (Rao et al. 2002).

The population on Hainan faces an uncertain future as a wild animal without hands-on management because protected area management has not been effective in preventing poaching (see Pang et al. 2003; Zeng et al. 2005). Loss of suitable habitat has been extensive and is continuing, but large enough areas probably remain for further population expansion, provided that herds in such situations could be adequately protected from poaching (see Zeng et al. 2005). Genetic analyses of the population suggest that there is low diversity resulting from a population bottleneck, and this could in the future threaten the population?s viability (Pang et al. 2003; Balakrishnan et al. 2003).

Indian populations of Eld?s deer declined due to some combination of hunting and habitat loss. Even at the Keibul Lamjao National Park, the habitats of the deer have been encroached for grazing, cultivation, and fish farming (Green 1990), but this seems to be mainly now under control (Singh 2004). This population is now most threatened by a hydro-electric project in Logtak Lake which maintains unnaturally high water levels during the dry season and has changed water flow patterns and water quality in the lake (Singh 2004). These in turn appear to be affecting the ecology of the Keibul Lamjao National Park floating marsh (Singh 2004; Sanjit et al. 2005). Floods could also seriously affect the population, which has no high ground to which it can easily escape (Singh 2004). There may also be the threat of low genetic diversity resulting from the effect of a very small founder population (Balakrishnan et al., 2004) and as a small isolated population it must also be considered at risk from disease transfer from domestic livestock, and potentially other factors.

Eld?s deer readily grazes on rice and some other agricultural products (McShea and Myint Aung 2001). This provides some potential for human?wildlife conflict, but under current conditions populations seem to be too low for this to be a serious problem (e.g. at the Chonbuly district population, Savannakhet province, Lao PDR; J.W. Duckworth in litt. 2008). Retributory killing may become more of a threat if populations are successfully rebuilt in areas close to agriculture.
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Eld's deer are widely hunted as food and for their antlers (6). In particular, Eld's deer are thought to have been hunted to feed the armies during many Asian wars (10). They are a prized game animal because of their impressive antlers and hides, which are sold in the local markets (6). Habitat destruction due to expanding agriculture has also had a major impact on this rare species. In Manipur, the Manipur brow-antlered deer (C. e. eldii) population has declined primarily due to wetland reclamation for grazing, cultivation and fish farming (6). Very little suitable habitat is protected; only one percent of the protected forests in Southeast Asia are suitable for Eld's deer (11). Even within protected areas, these threats continue. The Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary, Myanmar, is one of the last strongholds of the species, yet the dipterocarp forest within it continues to be degraded under great pressure from local communities for cropland and timber (7). Sadly, there is often a lack of funding and political will for protection (12). Due to their highly fragmented distribution this species is also at risk from inbreeding and loss of genetic variation (12).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
This species is listed on CITES Appendix I.

Most Cambodian Eld?s deer are within protected areas, although a significant (but decreasing) number occur outside (Timmins et al. 2003; McShea et al. 2005; Tordoff et al. 2005; Timmins 2006). In several protected areas mammals effectively receive no protection other than a decreased likelihood of landscape-scale conversion of habitat (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008). Conservation management of the Siema Biodiversity Conservation Area, Kulen Wildlife Sanctuary, Preah Vihear Protection Forest, and, particularly, Ang Trapeang Thmor Conservation Area and Srepok Wilderness Area may be stabilising and perhaps even increasing Eld?s deer populations, through externally funded conservation management projects supported by the Wildlife Conservation Society and The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF unpublished data; WCS unpublished data; R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008). These five areas cover well over 3,000 km² of relatively suitable Eld?s deer habitat, and thus the most pressing conservation need is the continued support and consolidation of these protected areas. Only once this is in place would it be sensible to divert resources to protect Eld?s deer in further areas of Cambodia currently with little to no active protection.

The central Lao population in Chonbuly District, Savannakhet Province, is under nominal protection in a roughly 200 km² provincial protected area specifically designated for the species (Johnson et al. 2004). The area had an ongoing conservation management project supported by the Wildlife Conservation Society (Johnson et al. 2004) but despite a very promising start, this stalled in 2007. Options are being investigated for resumption of collaboration, because this population is highly threatened by ongoing agricultural expansion and unfettered dogs, and probably by poaching (A. Johnson pers. comm. to J.W. Duckworth 2008). The single southern Lao population found during extensive surveys in the 1990s was small and inhabited a mosaic of farmland amidst forest, adjacent to a subsequently declared provincial protected area (Round 1998). Attempts to upgrade the provincial protected area to national status have failed (A. Johnson pers. comm. 2007). The most important conservation measures for the species in Lao PDR are resumption and consolidation of the Chonbuly District Eld?s deer project, and perhaps assisting protected area management in southern Lao PDR, especially of Xe Pian National Protected Area, in order to maintain significant areas of suitable habitat, which might one day be recolonised.

In Thailand the protected area system failed to prevent the species' effective national extinction some years ago. Therefore, recent conservation efforts there have focused on the captive breeding of large numbers of R. e. thamin (see Bhumpakphan et al. 2004), which is not, however, native to most of Thailand. Attempts to introduce R. e. thamin to non-native areas have had limited success, although there is a residual herd at Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary and Propogation Station (Bhumpakphan et al. 2004). There is a current plan to introduce 40 of them into Hauai Kha Khaeng WS, in 2008, with 100 more in 2009 (W.J. McShea pers. comm. 2008). R. e. siamensis was the subject of an abortive Smithsonian Institution reintroduction program initiated in 1985. By 1989, progress was limited to construction of holding facilities at Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary and Propogation Station. As with other range states the most pressing conservation measures seem to be strengthening protected area management in those areas that cover the species' former range, so that reintroduction might be possible in the future, jointly with measures to align all stakeholders to ensure that introduction programmes do not create herds with a mix of R. e. siamensis and R. e. thamin ancestry.

The Hainan population is now highly managed with most of the population in Datian NR, and other animals in Bangxi NR and Mihouling Reserve, and other captive facilities (Zeng et al. 2005). The species has been the subject of various avenues of research, for instance a population viability analysis was undertaken to examine demographic and environmental (drought) challenges to the two enclosed populations at the Hainan Datian Nature Reserve (Song 1996), with other research by Yuan et al. (1993) and Song (1993) (see also Zeng et al. 2005). But, the most important conservation measure needed appears to be strengthening of the protected area system so that deer can be re-established in a wild state without danger of poaching or habitat encroachment (see Zeng et al. 2005).

India held 97 captive animals in 15 zoos in December 1992, a slight decline from over 100 in the mid-1980s (Decoux 1993); by 1994, 14 zoos held 107 animals (Sharma 1994). The population is probably inbred: all reportedly are descended from two founder pairs (Walker and Marimuthu 1991; see also Balakrishnan et al. 2003). The 40 km² Keibul Lamjao National Park was gazetted in 1977 specifically to protect R. e. eldii (Ranjitsinh 1978). Subsequently projects at the park have raised public awareness, and local support has been developed for conserving the endemic Manipur subspecies, and largely halted encroachment of the species habitat (Singh 2004). Status surveys of R. e. eldii have been carried out annually in Keibul Lamjao National Park since 1975 (Ranjitsinh 1996; Singh 2004), and research has been undertaken by Singh (1983; 2004). A Wildlife Institute of India proposal in the 1980s to establish a second free-ranging population in Assam (Khan et al. 1993) was not implemented. Conservation needs are essentially mitigating detrimental effects of the hydropower project on the park, strengthening the protected area management of the park (e.g. through even further improvement of local relations and capacity building), increasing the park?s area to meet the needs of deer through appropriate research and potentially establishing further wild populations in other areas.

In Myanmar, Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary and Shwesettaw Wildlife Sanctuary were established specifically to protect R. e. thamin (Salter and Sayer 1986), but little management has been undertaken and despite promising initial efforts, management effectiveness appears to be decreasing (Myint Aung 1990; W.J. McShea pers. comm. 2008). Deer were found on the outskirts of only one other protected area, Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park, but protection efforts were never extended to cover the appropriate area, and the majority of the remnant area occupied by the species are likely to be outside protected areas (McShea et al. 2000; W. McShea pers. comm. 2008). A number of reintroductions have taken place into enclosed sites such as Hlawga Wildlife Park, using animals from Rangoon Zoo and the wild. In 1995, an ecological study of radio-collared R. e. thamin was initiated in Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary by the Smithsonian Institution, and a community education project commenced later that year to raise local awareness of the deer and the wildlife sanctuary (Wemmer 1995). The Wildlife Division surveys the population annually using a basic line transect method. Conservation measures needed were recently assessed to include extending the protected areas network (McShea et al. 2000) but in the interim the most pressing needs seem to be to prevent further deterioration at Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary and to salvage the Shwesettaw Wildlife Sanctuary, if this is possible.

McShea et al. (2005) argued that "only Cambodia, with 11% suitable forest protected, has placed sufficient dry dipterocarp forest under protected status. Other Southeast Asia countries have not recognized dry dipterocarp forest as a significant ecotype worthy of conservation status". It is certainly true that this forest type has been seen as a low priority in the conservation planning of all range states, but consideration that a country has placed 'sufficient' of any habitat type under protected status is subjective and a variety of measures can be used. In this case, 'sufficiency' was judged on the basis of proportion of a country's total suitable habitat that has been nominally protected. An alternative would be to consider factors like the actual amount of protected habitat, and whether this is enough to represent the range of biotic variation within the country; whether such habitat is in large enough blocks to remain ecologically functional into the long term, and whether protection is largely nominal or is genuinely effective. The last dichotomy is likely to be the chief determinant of whether Eld's deer will survive. Considering that no range states yet have existing protected areas which have secured the species on a long-term footing (although there are promising developments in several countries), and considering the speed with which populations can decrease, priority is necessary at present to concentrate most conservation actions for Eld?s deer on securing existing protected areas for key populations which have real potential for success. Determining this potential will reflect situational factors as much or more than ?traditional? biological factors such as current Eld?s deer status within them. Eld?s deer could potentially persist in habitat mosaics of forest and agriculture, as they still do in some areas of Myanmar and Cambodia (McShea et al. 2000; T. D. Evans pers. comm. 2007), but cultural predisposition to hunting and competing land uses make it unlikely that poaching can be controlled, or habitat management developed, without the context of a protected area, in most range countries (India and perhaps Myanmar being the most likely exceptions).

There are large captive populations of the species, estimated in 2003 to number 180 R. e. eldii, 1,100 R. e. thamin, 23 R. e. siamensis (non-Hainan stock) and 280 R. e. siamensis (Hainan stock), but most captive groups are not managed with conservation in mind (Siriaroonrat 2004). There is some scope for using these animals in reintroduction programmes, particularly in Thailand where Eld?s deer is nationally extinct yet the country is now probably in ?the best financial and bureaucratic position? of all range states to conserve landscape-scale field populations of the species (McShea et al. 2005).
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Conservation

Eld's deer occur in a number of protected areas throughout its range. The entire Manipur brow-antlered deer (C. e. eldii) population now resides within Keibul Lamjao National Park, Manipur (1), created in 1977 specifically to protect this subspecies (6). Additionally, local projects have helped raise public awareness and support for conserving the deer (6). Hainan Datian Nature Reserve on Hainan Island, China, was established in 1976 specifically to help the Thailand brow-antlered deer (C. e. siamensis) subspecies recover, with the population now growing an average of 15 percent annually (8). This population has become so large, in fact, that large numbers have been translocated to other parts of the island (8). Kyatthin and Shwesettaw Wildlife Sanctuaries were established in Myanmar to protect the Burmese brow-antlered deer (C. e. thamin) subspecies, and a community education project was initiated in 1995 to raise local awareness about the plight of the deer and the protected status of the Kyatthin Wildlife Sanctuary (6). Captive populations exist around the world, but inbreeding is common and cooperative cross-breeding is required if captive populations are to be genetically varied enough for any future reintroduction programmes into the wild (12).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Rucervus eldii is known to feed heavily on the cultivated crops of the local farmers. These deer are a major destroyer of crops, and are considered by locals to be a significant agricultural problem.

Negative Impacts: crop pest

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Eld's deer are hunted as game animals and are used as a food source. They are prized as a game animal because of their antlers and hides. There have been cases when these deer have been used for "traditional" medicinal products. Oftentimes, Els's deer are poached for this purpose. In addition to these destructive uses, Eld's deer have become a major zoo animal, especially since their populations are decreasing in the wild.

Positive Impacts: food ; body parts are source of valuable material; source of medicine or drug ; research and education

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Wikipedia

Eld's deer

Eld's deer (Panolia eldii),[2] also known as the thamin or brow-antlered deer, is an endangered species of deer indigenous to Southeast Asia.[1] The species was first discovered by westerners in Manipur in India in 1839. The original scientific name, Cervus eldi, was coined in 1844[3] in honour of Lt. Percy Eld, a British officer.[citation needed] The three subspecies of the Eld's deer are:[1]

  • P. e. thamin: The Burmese brow-antlered deer found in Myanmar, and westernmost Thailand was described by Lydekker in 1915.
  • P. e. siamensis: The Thai brow-antlered deer is found in Cambodia, China, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, and should perhaps be treated as a separate species.[4] The population on the Chinese island of Hainan is sometimes considered another subspecies, P. e. hainanus, but this is not supported by genetic evidence.[5]

Appearance[edit]

The following measurements have been reported for the Eld's deer:[6][7][8][9]

  • Head–body length: 150–180 cm (59–71 in)
  • Shoulder height: 110–125 cm (43–49 in)
  • Tail length: 20–30 cm (8–12 in)
  • Weight: 125–175 kg (276–386 lb)
  • Antler length: 99 cm (39 in)

The deer are generally of medium size and are similar to the size and shape of the barasingha. The species has a very regal and graceful Cervus physique. Its legs are thin and long, and has a long body with a large head on a thin neck. The throat of a male has a thick mane of long hair. Males (stags) are taller and heavier than the females (hinds or does). Their coats, rough and coarse, change colour with the season; in summer the colour is reddish-brown, while in winter, it turns dark brown, with males tending to be darker than the females. The tail is short in length and the rump has no distinct patch. Despite these features, they are actually related to the Père David's deer.[2] The antlers, bow- or lyre-shaped, do not grow upwards, but tend to grow outwards and then inwards; a smaller branch grows towards the front of the head. The brow tines are especially long and noticeable. The brow-antlered deer is so named because they have long brow tines. They shed their antlers every year, with the largest size attained during the breeding season.[6][8][9]

Conservation status[edit]

The conservation status of three subspecies of Eld's deer, by country, are:

India[edit]

The Keibul Lamjao National Park (KLNP), covering an area of 40 km2 (15.4 sq mi) of marshland called the Phumdis within the larger Loktak Lake, was gazetted in 1977 specifically to protect the Cervus eldi eldi, the sangai in Manipuri language. Over time, public awareness and local support have evolved for conserving the subspecies of the endemic endangered Elds' deer. Concerted actions have been initiated to stop encroachment of the park and adequate security arrangements have been made to stop poaching. This fact is very somberly presented in a story form in a popular children's magazine called Chandamama, which gives a first-person symbolic narrative by the affected 'deer' itself. The final conclusion by the deer, quoted below, concisely puts the security provided in the park in a proper perspective.[10]

" 'Thanks to these youngsters who live nearby', he said. I was happy and felt indebted to the youngsters for saving our lives. My friend added that these people really loved and respected the Sangai deer. They believed that killing the Sangai was an unpardonable sin. According to a Manipuri legend, the Sangai are the link between humans and nature. So, killing us would mean breaking a bond. My friend informed me that people concerned about animals like us have formed a group. They teach others to protect animals, too.

The news that people are trying their best to save the phumdis, deer like me, and the Loktak Lake, infuses new hope in me. 'How nice of them!' I thought.

Anyway, it is getting dark and my friend and I have to return to our herd. And those of you who are around can enjoy our dancing gait as we trot back home. It would be great if I could meet you again. We could dance together at KLNP, if you can make it here some time!"

The home range of brow-antlered deer in the park is confined to 15–20 km2 (5.8–7.7 sq mi) in the southwestern part of the lake where phumdis on which the deer thrive are abundant. A study conducted on the proportion, on the basis of body weight of stag, hind and fawn, is reported to be 4:2:1. The sangai distribution dictated by shelter and availability of food is high near Toyaching, Pabotching and the Yang Kokchambi area.[11]

Censuses conducted by the wildlife wing of the Forest Department in 1975, 1990, 2000 and 2003 has shown the Eld's deer population was 14, 76, 162 and 180, respectively. The 2000 survey of 162 deer included 54 stags, 76 hinds and 32 fawns.[11][12] The reports of 2004 indicate a figure of 182 as referred in another section here, which shows the subspecies in Manipur is on the rise.

A successful captive breeding programme is underway at the Alipore Zoological Gardens in Kolkata, and many specimens of the deer have been bred here.[6][7]

Burma[edit]

For protection of the thamin subspecies of the Eld's deer, Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary and Shwesettaw Wildlife Sanctuary (both protected sanctuaries) and Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park were chosen. Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary, with an area of 104 sq mi (269.4 km2) in Myanmar's central plains, 125 sq mi (323.7 km2) northwest of the city of Mandalay, has Indaing deciduous broadleaf forest dominated by Dipterocarpus tuberculatus and is the habitat for four species of deer: thamin, muntjac (Muntiacus muntjac), hog deer (Cervus porcinus), and sambhar (Cervus unicolor). Subject to indiscriminate hunting in the past (till the ownership of guns was controlled after the 1960s), the thamin, highly threatened, now has a population of about 1,000. Initially, the Smithsonian National Zoo acquired a few thamin for observations and subsequently shifted a few to its Conservation and Research Center at Front Royal, Virginia for biological study.[1][13] For a cross–check of the biological studies done at the research center, the Smithsonian Institution selected the Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary, a protected park. Special studies on the thamin deer were conducted by the conservation scientists headed by Christen Wemmer of the Smithsonian. They gathered details on the biology and survival of the species by duly correlating with the changes that occurred in the ecology of the region of the Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary. Under the research project study, the ecology of thamin and a series of training courses in biodiversity were organised. The thamin's life cycle studies on 11 male and eight female radio–collared deer, supported by field studies by the scientists, revealed:[13]

  1. Its life cycle was well-tuned to the seasonal rhythm of its environment.
  2. An average group size was 2.5 per 1.6 km2 (0.62 sq mi); deer mother with young appeared to be the basic social unit.
  3. Males were in velvet when they were in bachelor groups.
  4. After new grass sprouts in the ashes of February and March fires, they gathered to graze on tender shoots.
  5. Males moved through the herds seeking receptive females.
  6. March and April were the months of rut.
  7. Males with their newly hardened antlers were in a state of anorexia and sexual obsession during this period.
  8. They operated in a specific home range of about 3.5 sq mi (9.1 km2) to 2.7 sq mi (7.0 km2).
  9. When food was short, some animals migrated into farmland for a few months before returning to the park; during the day they hid in small patches of degraded forest and at night they forayed into the croplands.

Smithsonian National Zoological Park, which has been closely associated with the preservation of the thamin deer, has in its conclusive observations stated:[14]

"Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary (CWS) in Myanmar (Burma) protects the largest population of the endangered Eld's deer left in the world. It also represents one of the largest remaining patches of dipterocarp forest–a dry forest that is one of the most threatened and least protected forest types globally. Local people rely on these forests for their livelihood. The forests provide wood, food, shelter, and medicine. Restricting people's access to these forests by declaring them protected is probably not a sustainable solution and will put greater burden on lower income households potentially increasing poverty. However, if people continue to use and abuse forests unregulated they will disappear and with them the Eld's deer and many other species."

With external funding for such protection drying up, though, the efforts had not yielded encouraging results and the conclusion was the conditions were not conducive even to protect the protected parks given the political and funding situation in the country.

The picture is not encouraging in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, either. The Burmese brow-antlered deer is 'Near Threatened' and still occurs in reasonable numbers.

Thailand[edit]

The situation of protected areas for the Eld's deer is much worse in Thailand and along its border areas with Laos and Cambodia; it is feared that it may be difficult to prevent the “decline and likely extirpation of Eld's deer from the wild in Thailand”.[1]

Other countries[edit]

In Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, Eld's deer was hunted for the traditional medicinal trade (particularly of this subspecies) and to meet demand for captive animals (especially from zoos) and forest habitat was degraded (deforested) to meet agriculture and infrastructural developments. The subpopulation in Hainan considered as a subspecies by Chinese conservationists was almost extinct in the wild.[1]

Assessment[edit]

In over 200 recent years of known history, the number of this species has declined substantially. Based on estimated rates of the decline of this species assessed in three generations (supposed to be at least a 15-year period) for all the species, the average value is reported to be in excess of 50%. Based on this assessment, IUCN has categorized the species as Endangered. In this assessment for determining the species-level, the numbers in India were considered to be numerically small (also found to be increasing), hence the numbers of wild populations only of Eld's deer P. e. thamin in Myanmar and P. e. siamensis of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam were considered. The decline in population has been mainly attributed to hunting. In the case of the Myanmar thamin, the decline is discernible but not striking. The categorization is considered a middle-ground situation considering the extensively diverse conditions and conservation trends in the geographically isolated and distinct populations of this species.[1][8]

Brief particulars of the three species[edit]

Panolia eldi eldi or sangai in Manipur
Breeding and gestation period (conception to birth)

Female Eld's deer are generally found alone or in pairs with their young, but during the mating season, females and their young gather in herds of up to 50 individuals. Males also move around singly except during mating season. When rutting takes place, males compete with each other to gain control of a harem of females with which they can then mate. After a long gestation period, normally a single calf is born. The young have white spots at birth which fade away as they grow; they are weaned at seven months of age, and become sexually mature from 18 months of age onwards. The gestation period for three species is 220 to 240 days, with bithing occurring:.[1][8][9]

  • For Manipur deer, between October and end of December
  • For the Burmese thamin, between October and November
  • For the siamensis deer in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, between October and November
Panolia eldi thamin of Burma and Thailand
Panolia eldi siamens of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam

Numbers in the wild[edit]

In India, the Eld's deer species (sangai) is confined to the peculiar floating bog called Phumdis in Loktak Lake and is numbered at less than a few hundred animals. The subspecies P. e. siamensis', which occupied the vast monsoon forests from Thailand to Hainan was extinct in Thailand, very few in number in Laos and Cambodia, and almost extinct in Vietnam. A few hundred deer were protected in a large enclosure in Hainan Island, China.[1][6][13] The estimated figures are:

  • 180 animals (2004) of P. e. eldi in Manipur
  • 2,200 (United Nations estimate) – 1992 survey for P. e. thamin of Burma and Thailand
  • In low tens (2004) – for P. e. siamensis, considered as possibly extinct in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam

Numbers in captivity (zoos)[edit]

In 2003, the estimated number of captive animals of the three subspecies in zoos were[1] 180 P. e. eldi, 1100 P. e. thamin and 23 P. e. siamensis.

Peculiarities[edit]

Peculiarities to each subspecies include:[1]

  • P. e. eldi which in Manipur is associated with wetlands. It has adaptations of the hooves (feet) to move easily in their marshland (boggy ground) habitat of phumdis. It lives in significantly different ecosystems compared to other subspecies and in divergent morphology. Antlers are shed every year and reach their largest size during the breeding season.
  • The P. e. siamensis of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam are not associated with wetland. They are found in deciduous dipterocarp forests.

Habits[edit]

Some observations on the habits of Eld's deer common to all three subspecies are a) active most of the time, seek shelter from the midday sun and migrate for short periods seeking water in the dry season and food in the growing season, b)seek areas that are seasonally burned in search of new grasses that grow after the burn, c) their diets comprise a variety of grasses, herbaceous plants, and shoots, grasses, fruit and wetland plants and they poach into cultivated crops to graze and browse in nearby fields of rice, lentils, maize, peas and grapes.[1][1][6][7][15]

Threats[edit]

They are hunters' favourite game – as prized game – because of their impressive antlers and hides that are in demand in the local markets. They are widely hunted for food; they were believed to have been hunted to feed armies during many Asian wars. Their population has declined due to intense development activities necessitating reclamation of land for grazing, cultivation and fish farming, in all countries. In Burma, deforestion of the diperocarp forests is cited as a reason for the threat faced by the thamin deer. The habitat available for their protection is very limited; only 1% of the protected forests are suitable for its protection in South Asia. Even in protected areas, the animals are poached. Another striking problem is finding adequate funds and political will to protect the species. The species have a fragmented distribution and are therefore at risk from inbreeding and loss of genetic variation.[6]

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Timmins, R.J. & Duckworth, J.W. (2008). "Rucervus eldii". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 10 March 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Pitraa, Fickela, Meijaard, Groves (2004). Evolution and phylogeny of old world deer. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 33: 880–895.
  3. ^ "Cervus eldii (Eld's Brow-Antlered Deer)". ZipCode.com. Retrieved 2009-04-04. 
  4. ^ Groves (2006). The genus Cervus in eastern Eurasia. European Journal of Wildlife Research 52: 14-22.
  5. ^ Balakrishnan, Monfort, Gaur, Singh and Sorenson (2003). Phylogeography and conservation genetics of Eld's deer (Cervus eldi). Molecular Ecology 12: 1-10.
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Eld's deer (Cervus eldi". ARKieve: Images of Life on Earth. Retrieved 2009-04-05. 
  7. ^ a b c "Sangai Deer (Cervus eldii eldii)". National Zoological Park, Mathura Road, New Delhi, India. Retrieved 2009-04-05. 
  8. ^ a b c d "Thamin or Brow-antlered Deer Cervus eldi". World Deer. Retrieved 2009-04-04. [dead link]
  9. ^ a b c Richard Lydekker (1996). "The Great and Small Game of India, Burma, and Tibet". Thamin (Asian Educational Services). p. 456. ISBN 9788120611627. Retrieved 2009-04-05. 
  10. ^ "Dance, Deer Sangai". Chandamama. 2008-03-20. Retrieved 2009-04-06. 
  11. ^ a b S. Sangsit (2003). "Dancing Deer of Manipur". News Letter, Wild Life Institute of India, Volume 10, number 3. Retrieved 2009-04-05. [dead link]
  12. ^ "'Sangai' threatened by unbridled poaching". the Hindu. 2003-03-30. Retrieved 2009-04-05. 
  13. ^ a b c Christen Wemmer. "The Thamin and a Place Called Chatthin". Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Retrieved 2009-04-05. 
  14. ^ "Conservation GIS Projects:People and the Forests of Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary in Myanmar". Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Retrieved 2009-04-05. 
  15. ^ "Cervus eldii M'Clelland,1842". Biology. Encyclopedia of Life. Retrieved 2009-04-04. 
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