Overview

Distribution

Range Description

This species occurs in the Himalayas of Bhutan, northern India (including Sikkim), Nepal, and China (southwest Xizang) (Groves et al. 1995; Grubb 2005). Its occurrence in China is almost marginal (Yang et al. 2003, where treated as M. chrysogaster).
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Geographic Range

Himalayan musk deer reside in the Himalayan mountain range, particularly within the countries of Bhutan, India, Nepal, and a small part of China. The geographic range of the Himalayan musk deer has sharply declined in recent years due to predation, trapping by humans, and habitat destruction.

Biogeographic Regions: palearctic ; oriental

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Himalayan musk deer weigh around 11 to 18 kg and are 86 to 100 cm in length. They are sandy brown in color, with slightly darker rumps and limbs. The ventral side of their bodies ranges from gray to white. The rounded backs and long alert ears of the Himalayan musk deer contribute to their "hare-like" resemblance. Although both sexes have long upper canines, the males' grow longer, up to 7 to 10 cm. The canines break easily, but tooth growth is continuous. In addition, male Himalayan musk deer have a musk sac (between their reproduction organs and umbilicus) and a caudal gland (at the base of their tail), both of which play a role in communication. The musk gland attracts females during mating season, and the caudal gland is used to mark territory. Uniquely, the females have a single pair of mammae. Himalayan musk deer also have gall bladders, a characteristic that distinguishes musk deer from other deer. Additionally, musk deer do not have antlers.

Moschus leucogaster was once considered the same species as Moschus chrysogaster, as both species have similar life history traits and characteristics. Moschus leucogaster was separated from Moschus chrysogaster based on skull size proportions, though it is difficult to distinguish one species from another by sight. Groves, Yingxiang, and Grubb (1995) suggest a difference in the appearance of the throat: while M. chrysogaster have distinct white stripes or a white patch on their throats, this characteristic is vague in Moschus leucogaster, if present at all.

Range mass: 11 to 18 kg.

Range length: 86 to 100 cm.

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This species inhabits high alpine environments, with Groves et al. (1995) recording a lowest altitude of 2,500 m asl. It is poorly known, but its natural history is likely to be similar to that of M. chrysogaster. M. chrysogaster is found on barren plateaus at high altitudes, where it occupies meadows, fell-fields, shrublands or fir forests. It feeds mainly on grasses, shrubs, leaves, moss, lichens, shoots, and twigs (Green 1987). It is generally solitary and crepuscular (Harris and Cai 1993).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Himalayan musk deer are thought to inhabit a similar habitat to their close relative Moschus chrysogaster, which occupies meadows, shrublands, and sparse forests, such as fir forests. Because Himalayan musk deer roam at elevations higher than 2,500 m, their habitat predominantly consists of vegetation typical of alpine regions. This mountainous species is accustomed to navigating moderately to very steep slopes.

Range elevation: 2500 (low) m.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; mountains

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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Himalayan musk deer are herbivores and feed on what is seasonally available. Accordingly, they eat grasses, forbs, mosses, lichen, twigs, shoots, and plant leaves. They are ruminants, so they can quickly leave feeding grounds if threatened and further digest their food at a later time when safe from harm.

Occasionally, Himalayan musk deer travel great distances at night to forage for food. They may travel 3 to 7 km per night, but they always return to their usual territories by daybreak.

Plant Foods: leaves; wood, bark, or stems; bryophytes; lichens

Other Foods: fungus

Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore )

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Associations

Threatened Vertebrate Associates in the Hindu Kush Alpine Meadow Ecoregion

The Hindu Kush alpine meadow has an expanse of some 10,900 square miles, situated in northeastern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. Most of the lands lie within the Hindu Kush Mountain Range in  the altitude bracket between 3000 to 4000 meters, and correspondingly most of the precipitation is in the form of snow. This ecoregion is classified within the Montane Grasslands and Shrublands biome.

This ecoregion manifests a low rate of vertebrate endemism; however there are ten special status mammals found here, ranging from the status of Endangered to Near Threatened. The Hindu Kush alpine meadow ecoregion consists of higher elevation terrain of moderate to severe slopes. Vegetation is often sparse or almost lacking, with resulting pastoral usage of low intensity grazing of goats and sheep in some areas. Soils are largely leptosols, but many areas are covered by large expanses of rock outcrop or rocky scree. In the limited areas of arable soils, wheat is sometimes farmed, although growing of opium poppies is the only cash crop. Most of the water available for plant and animal life is supplied by snowmelt. The Helmand River, Afghanistan's largest watercourse, represents the chief catchment within the ecoregion, with headwaters rising in the Hindu Kush Range, and eventual discharge to the endorheic Sistan Basin.

Special status mammals found in the Hindu Kush alpine meadow are: the Near Threatened argali (Ovis ammon), the Vulnerable Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus), the Near Threatened European otter (Lutra lutra), the Near Threatened leopard (Panthera pardus), the Endangered markhor (Capra falconeri), the Near Threatened mountain weasel (Mustela altaica), the Near Threatened Schreiber's long-fingered bat (Miniopteris schreibersi), the Endangered snow leopard (Uncia uncia), the Near Threatened striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena) and the Endangered Moschus leucogaster. Special status birds in the Hindu Kush alpine meadow are represented by the Endangered Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopteris).

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Ecosystem Roles

As herbivores, Himalayan musk deer facilitate seed dispersal in their environment. Seeds are moved as deer forage and also may cling to their fur. Additionally, Himalayan musk deer are preyed on by leopard, lynx, yellow-throated marten, red fox, grey wolf, wild dogs, and occasionally birds of prey.

Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds

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Predation

Himalayan musk deer attempt to conceal themselves within vegetation to avoid predators. The dull brown color of their coats minimizes their chance of detection. Predators include leopard, lynx, yellow-throated marten, red fox, grey wolf, wild dogs, and humans. Large birds of prey also occasionally kill young musk deer. When chased, Himalayan musk deer seek mountainside shelters in which to hide. If none are easily found, the deer use their speed to run in circles, hoping to lose the predator. Himalayan musk deer, however, tire easily, usually after 200 to 300 m of running. They can jump as far as 6 m, which is advantageous when being chased by slower predators

The male musk sac is highly sought after by humans, and hunting and trapping have caused declines in Himalayan musk deer populations. Traps kill not only the desired males, but also females and young deer.

Known Predators:

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Himalayan musk deer have a highly acute sense of smell. As a result, males mark their territories by rubbing their caudal gland against vegetation. This secretion also deters rivals during the breeding season. Himalayan musk deer make a double hiss sound when alarmed and may even scream when wounded. They are also alerted danger through their good sense of hearing.

Communication Channels: acoustic ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: scent marks

Perception Channels: visual ; acoustic

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Himalayan musk deer typically live for 10 to 14 years in the wild.

Typical lifespan

Status: wild:
10 to 14 years.

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Reproduction

During the mating season, male Himalayan musk deer become anxious, competitive, and eat little. While protecting their territory, which encompasses the home ranges of several females, males fight one another using their long canine teeth as weapons. The females demonstrate exhaustion and attempt to stay in hiding. The male's musk sac is key in attracting females during the mating season; the sac emanates a strong smell meant to lure the females from hiding.

Himalayan musk deer mate between November and January, although some females may not mate until March. The gestation period is 185 to 195 days. One to two young are typically born between May and June and nurse from their mother for about 2 months. During this time, the young remain in hiding, independent of their mothers except when feeding.

Around 6 months of age, young Himalayan musk deer are weaned and able to consume food from their surroundings, becoming completely independent. Young deer become sexually mature by 16 to 24 months of age.

Breeding interval: Himalayan musk deer breed once yearly.

Breeding season: Mating of Himalayan musk deer occurs between November and January.

Range number of offspring: 1 to 2.

Range gestation period: 185 to 195 days.

Average weaning age: 6 months.

Average time to independence: 6 months.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 16 to 24 months.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 16 to 24 months.

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

Parental investment is minimal in Himalayan musk deer. Young deer nurse from their mothers when necessary but otherwise stay in hiding, unaccompanied by either parent.

Parental Investment: female parental care ; pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female)

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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
EN
Endangered

Red List Criteria
A2d

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
Listed as Endangered because of a probable serious population decline, estimated to be more than 50% over the last three generations (approximately 21 years), inferred from over-exploitation, which is characteristic of this genus. Although there is no direct data available regarding recent declining population rates, the above-mentioned rate of decline seems reasonable based on the high levels of harvesting. It should also be noted that the species has a relatively restricted range, and so its population is unlikely to be large.
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Himalayan musk deer are listed as endangered on both the IUCN Red List and the US Federal List. CITES lists the small number of Himalayan musk deer that inhabit China in Appendix II and all other Himalayan musk deer in Appendix I.

Himalayan musk deer are threatened by hunting, habitat fragmentation, habitat reduction, and habitat destruction. Because it is difficult to distinguish Himalayan musk deer from similar species such as Moschus chrysogaster, the exact rates of their population declines are debatable. Although many musk deer reside in one of several protected areas, poaching activities continue to increase as musk becomes more valuable.

US Federal List: endangered

CITES: appendix i; appendix ii

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: endangered

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Population

Population
Little is known of the species’s current status. There are very few in China, reflecting the small range there (Yang et al. 2003). It is believed to be declining throughout its range because of over-harvesting.

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
There is a high trade in musk deer parts, particularly pods, into China and elsewhere in north-east Asia (see accounts for other Moschus species). Many relatively high-volume illicit wildlife trade links pass through M. leucogaster’s range, so it is certain to be under some level of threat from trade. The unstable taxonomy hampers abilities to assess threat levels directly to species, especially as parts like pods are not readily identifiable to species anyway.

Besides hunting for meat, which is considered a delicacy locally, hunting of the muskdeer is primarily for trade of musk glands. The musk produced by this genus of primitive deer is highly valued for its cosmetic and alleged pharmaceutical properties, and can fetch U.S.$45,000 per kilogram (2.2 pounds) on the international market. Although this musk, produced in a gland of the males, can be extracted from live animals, most "musk-gatherers" kill the animals to remove the entire sac, which yields only about 25 grams (1/40 of a kilogram) of the brown waxy substance. Such poaching is relatively easy to accomplish and difficult to stop using only legal means.

There is also some forest loss within its range for agriculture, timber and human settlement.
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
This species is listed on CITES Appendix II (China) and Appendix I (all other countries), but this does not prevent rampant trade in musk deer. It is considered to be rare in China. Perhaps through taxonomic uncertainties, it is on the China Red List as Not Evaluated, and the China Key List - II. The high value of the parts in trade mean that conservation requires effective hand-on anti-poaching activity. It occurs in a number of protected areas.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

The are no known adverse effects of Himalayan musk deer on humans.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The musk sac of male musk deer is highly sought after by humans. Around 25 g of musk can be extracted from a single musk sac. At market, 1 kg of musk can be worth $45,000 USD, a figure which increases as species populations decrease. Musk is an important component in perfume and is also used in traditional medicinal practices. Additionally, Himalayan musk deer are sought by local people for their fur and meat, which is considered a delicacy.

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

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Wikipedia

White-bellied musk deer

The White-bellied or Himalayan musk deer (Moschus leucogaster) is a musk deer species occurring in the Himalayas of Nepal, Bhutan, northern India including Sikkim and China. It is listed as Endangered by IUCN because of over-exploitation resulting in a probable serious population decline.[1] It is the state animal of Uttarakhand.

It used to be considered a subspecies of the Alpine musk deer but was separated on the basis of different skull proportions.[2]

Characteristics[edit]

The Himalayan musk meer is very well adapted for high altitudes; they demonstrate such adaptations as well-developed dewclaws, broad toes that provide increased stability on steep slopes, and a dense coat of coarse hairs with air-filled cells to insulate against the extreme temperature.[3] While they lack antlers, a trait notable among all musk deer, they do possess a pair of enlarged and easily broken canines that grow continuously. The maximum length of these tusks is approximately ten centimeters.[4][5] These deer have a stocky body type; their hind legs are also significantly longer and more muscular than their shorter, thinner forelimbs. In place of running or leaping, this species tends to "bound." Finally, fawns of this species have white spots to help with camouflage, but as they mature these spots disappear.

The Himalayan musk deer has a waxy substance called musk that the male deer secrets from a gland in the abdomen. The deer use this to mark territories and attract females. But the musk is also been used in the manufacture of perfumes, and medicines.[6]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Himalayan musk deer is found in parts of northern Afghanistan, Pakistan, Jammu and Kashmir, Tibet, Bhutan, Sikkim, Nepal, and in northern parts of India such as in (Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Assam). It inhabits high alpine environments, with the lowest occurring altitude at 2500 m above sea level. The species is endangered due to a high volume of illegal wildlife trade within its range.[citation needed]

Ecology and behaviour[edit]

Shy and secretive during the day when it hides in dense cover, at night the Himalayan musk deer emerges to feed in more open habitats. This species prefers to select the leaves of trees and shrubs with a high protein and low fibre content, but during the winter it may subsist on poorer quality lichens, although it may climb small trees to feed upon leaves that would otherwise be out of reach.[7] The Himalayan musk deer is a fairly sedentary species, occupying a small home range of up to 22 hectares. The males are fiercely territorial, only allowing females to enter their range. Territories are marked by carefully placed defecation sites and strong-smelling secretions, which are placed onto the surrounding plants[6]

Himalayan musk deer males fight each other over females during the mating season. The males use their long canines to fight and defend their territory. The females, on the other hand, hide from all the commotion. For the males to attract the females and bring them out from hiding, they use their strong smelling musk. Those with a good smell will attract the females and mate with them.

A female will have up to one or two young. The young musk deer will live off their mother's milk till they are about six months old and able to eat regular foods available in the wild. It is not until they are sixteen to twenty-four months old that they become sexually mature.[6][7]

Himalayan musk deer can live for up to 10 to 14 years.[citation needed] Their predators include the leopard, Eurasian lynx, yellow-throated marten, red fox and gray wolf.[8]

Threats[edit]

As the musk the deer produces is in demand for the manufacture of perfumes and medicines, it is highly valuable. Since the species is endangered and hard to find, its value on the wildlife trade market is increased still further. The hunting and trade of the Himalayan Musk Deer is the main threat to the species. Deer musk may sell for as much as $45,000 per kilogram, making it one of the most valuable animal-derived products in the world.[9] Hunters catch and kill the deer using snares. Only males produce the musk and this creates a problem because females and young are caught in the traps and killed.

Conservation[edit]

The Himalayan musk deer is protected by law in Bhutan, Nepal and India.[citation needed] In China, hunting may be permitted in some areas, although a license is required. It is listed as an endangered species in Pakistan[citation needed] and is also found in a number of protected areas throughout; however, the uneven enforcement of legislation across its range has meant there has been little impact on preventing the rampant trade in the species.[10] Improving the enforcement of anti-poaching laws is deemed[by whom?] a key priority for the conservation of this species.

Efforts being made[edit]

Captive-deer farming for musk has been developed in China, and so far has shown that it is possible to extract musk from a deer without having to kill it. However, the captive deer succumb to disease and fighting and produce poorer quality musk. The killing of wild deer is thought to be the most cost-effective method of extracting musk.[11] Open farming is a possible new way to extract the musk, whereby free-ranging or wild musk deer are caught and the musk then extracted, allowing the species to be conserved and survive.[11]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Timmins, R. J., Duckworth, J. W. (2008). "Moschus leucogaster". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. 
  2. ^ Groves, C. P., Yingxiang, W., Grubb, P. (1995). Taxonomy of Musk-Deer, Genus Moschus (Moschidae, Mammalia). Acta Theriologica Sinica 15(3): 181–197.
  3. ^ Ultimate Ungulate (May, 2010)http://www.ultimateungulate.com/cetartiodactyla/moschidae.html.
  4. ^ Nowak, R. M. (1999). Walker’s Mammals of the World. Sixth edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London
  5. ^ Rajchal, R. (2006). Population Status, Distribution, Management, Threats and Mitigation Measures of Himalayan Musk Deer (Moschus chyrogaster) in Sagarmatha National Park. Department of National Park and Wildlife Conservation, Tourism for Rural Poverty Alleviation Programme, Babarmahal, Kathmandu, Nepal
  6. ^ a b c Macdonald, D. (2001). The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford
  7. ^ a b Homes, V. (2004). No Licence to Kill: the Population and Harvest of Musk Deer and Trade in Musk in the Russian Federation and Mongolia. TRAFFIC Europe, Brussels
  8. ^ Aryal, A. 2005. Status and distribution of Himalayan Musk deer ‘Moschus chrysogaster’ in Annapurna Conservation Area of Manang District, Nepal. UK: ITNC. Accessed April 25, 2009 at http://www.itnc.org/FinalReportonMuskdeerManang.pdf.
  9. ^ 10.National Geographic – Poachers Target Musk Deer for Perfumes, Medicines (May, 2010) http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/09/0907_040907_muskdeer.html.
  10. ^ 1Wemmer, C. (1998). Deer: Status Survey and Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Deer Specialist Group, Cambridge
  11. ^ a b Meng, X., Zhou, C., Hu, J., Li, C., Meng, Z., Feng, J. and Zhou, Y. (2006). Musk deer farming in China. Animal Science 82: 1–6.
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