Calamian deer (Axis calamianensis)

Also known as: Calamanian deer, Calamian hog deer, Philippine deer
French: Cerf-cochon Calamien
Spanish: Ciervo De Los Calamianes, Ciervo Porquerizo De Los Calamianes
GenusAxis (1)
SizeHead-body length: 100 – 175 cm (2)
Tail length: 12 – 38 cm (2)
Shoulder height: 60 – 100 cm (2)
Weight27 – 110 kg (2)

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1) and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

The Calamian deer is a fairly small and heavy-bodied deer (4), with relatively long legs (5). Its coarse hair is tawny-brown with darker underparts (4) (6), and the legs are darker than the rest of the body (5). The face has subtle white markings around the muzzle, inside and at the base of the ears, and on the throat, and the underside of the short, bushy tail is also white. Undoubtedly, the most distinctive feature of the Calamian deer is the three-pronged antlers of the male (5): bony, hornlike appendages that are typically shed and re-grown each year (4).

As its name suggests, this deer occurs in the Calamian Islands, a group of islands in the Philippines. Within this island group, it is found on Busuanga and Culion, as well as the small island of Calauit, situated off the northwest tip of Busuanga (7). Calauit currently holds the largest population of Calamian deer, which has increased from a tiny population following the introduction of 30 individuals in 1977 (7).

The Calamian deer inhabits grassland, second growth scrub and woodland (7) (8).

Little information exists about the biology of the Calamian deer (6). It is said to occur in groups usually numbering 7 to 14 individuals, although in areas where this deer is heavily hunted, much smaller groups have been reported (7). In captivity, Calamian deer have been observed to mate and give birth year round, with a gestation period of around 222 days (9).

The antlers of the male deer arise from the skin covering the front of the skull and grow within a sensitive skin containing numerous blood vessels, called velvet. After providing the growing bone with oxygen and nutrients, the velvet dries and cracks when the antlers have reached their full size and the males rub it off by hitting their antlers against small trees or shrubs. This simultaneously stains the antlers with the dark sap that seeps from the tree’s bark (4).

These beautiful deer are hunted by local people, primarily for their meat, although their hides are sometimes used for drum-skins and their antlers for decoration (7). This hunting, which was particularly severe during the mid-1970s but has declined in more recent years (7), has left Calamian deer populations seriously depleted (5).

The greatest number of Calamian deer remains on Calauit Island (2), which in 1976 was declared a Game Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary (6), accompanied by the eviction of 256 families from the island (7). This population of deer is now threatened by the return of the evicted families, who have settled illegally on Calauit Island (7), bringing with them animals which may carry infectious diseases (6), and causing significant damage to the island’s forests through slash-and-burn agriculture (10).

The most significant conservation measures implemented for this Endangered species to date have been the establishment of the Calauit Island Game Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary and the introduction of 30 deer to the island (7). In 1993, the Calamian Deer Conservation Program was also launched, an initiative which has led to the undertaking of status surveys, research, conservation education, and the formation of management recommendations. There are no reserves on Busuanga and Culion, but relatively large parts of these islands fortunately remain undeveloped and sparsely inhabited (7).

For further information on conservation in the Philippines see:

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  1. IUCN Red List (December, 2009)