Visayan spotted deer (Rusa alfredi)

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Male Visayan spotted deer by tree
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Visayan spotted deer fact file

Visayan spotted deer description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderCetartiodactyla
FamilyCervidae
GenusRusa (1)

This small, short-legged deer is the largest endemic species of the west Visayan islands of the Philippines (2), and is easily distinguished from other Philippine deer by the distinctive pattern of buff-coloured spots scattered across its dark brown back and sides (2) (3). The underparts are a creamy colour with white fur on the chin and lower lip, contrasting sharply with the otherwise deep brown face and neck (3). The head is a slightly lighter shade of brown than the body, and the eyes are surrounded by a ring of paler fur (2). As is typical of most cervids, only males bear antlers, which are bumpy and relatively short and stout at around 20 centimetres in length (2). Males can also be distinguished from females by their much larger overall size (3).

Also known as
Philippine spotted deer.
Synonyms
Cervus alfredi.
Size
Head-body length: 120 - 130 cm (2)
Shoulder height: 60 - 80 cm (2)
Tail length: 8 - 13 cm (2)
Weight
40 - 60 kg (2)
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Visayan spotted deer biology

The Visayan spotted deer is thought to be mainly nocturnal, emerging at dusk to begin feeding on a variety of different types of grasses, leaves and buds within the forest (2). These deer are social animals, usually found in small groups of three to five (7), but their mating system is poorly understood (3). In other members of the genus, mating is usually polygynous, with males competing for access to females through sparring and vocalisations (3). The breeding season of Visayan spotted deer is reported from November to December, although possibly beginning earlier, during which males produce a distinctive roar-like call (4). Young are born in May and June, after a gestation period of around 240 days (3). Offspring are weaned at six months and reach maturity from 12 months of age, at which point males begin to grow antlers (2).

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Visayan spotted deer range

Endemic to the Visayan islands of the central Philippines, formerly reported on Cebu, Guimaras, Leyte, Masbate, Negros, Panay, and Samar, but now thought to remain only on the islands of Panay and Negros (1) (4).

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Visayan spotted deer habitat

The Visayan spotted deer inhabits primary rainforest and secondary growth, from sea level up to at least 1,500 metres above sea level (5) (6).

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Visayan spotted deer status

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered

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Visayan spotted deer threats

The Visayan spotted deer is one of the rarest and most narrowly distributed mammals in the world, with only a few hundred wild animals thought to remain (3). Indeed, a survey in 1991 found that the species had already become extinct in over 95 percent of its former range, largely as a result of intensive hunting and extensive deforestation (4), with land having been cleared for agriculture and logging operations at a frightening pace (5). Hunting also poses a significant threat to this Endangered deer (5).

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Visayan spotted deer conservation

The Visayan spotted deer is afforded some degree of protection through its occurrence in Mt. Camlaon National Park, North Negros Forest Reserve, Mount Talinis/Lake Balinsasayao Reserve and the proposed West Panay Mountains National Park (5). Although Visayan spotted deer are legally protected, their distribution in remote, dense, inland forest makes the practicalities of guard patrolling very difficult, and hunting therefore continues (3). In 1990, the Philippine Spotted Deer Conservation Program was set up to initiate a captive breeding programme and a number of other conservation measures, including a public education campaign and an annual series of conservation workshops (4) (5). Visayan spotted deer are currently held in captivity in Mari-it Conservation Centre in Panay, two breeding centres in Negros, and a dozen zoos in Europe (7).

Despite the benefits of having a captive population to buffer against total extinction, the fate of the Visayan spotted deer in the wild remains highly uncertain, and current agricultural practices and hunting pressure must change if it has any chance of survival in its natural environment (3). Unfortunately, the poor state of the Philippine economy and political unrest make this an extremely difficult task, and captive-bred individuals will not be released into the wild until they have a fair chance of survival (3). The conservation of this rare and beautiful deer is therefore highly complex, and requires considerable efforts by the Philippine government to stabilise the economic environment before it has any real hope of recovery.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

For more information on the Visayan spotted deer see:

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Authentication

Authenticated (20/10/08) by Dr Jens-Ove Heckel, Director, Zoo Landau in der Pfalz.
http://www.zoo-landau.de

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Glossary

Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Gestation
The state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
Nocturnal
Active at night.
Polygyny
In animals, a pattern of mating in which a male has more than one female partner.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (June, 2009)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. World Deer (February, 2006)
    http://www.worlddeer.org/philippinespotteddeer.html
  3. Animal Diversity Web (February, 2006)
    http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/index.html
  4. Oliver, W.L.R., Cox, C.R. and Dolar, L.L. (1991) The Philippine spotted deer conservation project. Oryx, 25(4): 199 - 205.
  5. Wemmer, C. (1998) Deer: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Deer Specialist Group, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.
  6. Heaney, L.R., Balete, D.S., Dolar, M.L., Alcala, A.C., Dans, A.T.C., Gonzales, P.C., Ingle, N.R., Lepiten, M.V., Oliver, W.L.R., Ong, P.S., Rickart, E.A., Tabaranza Jr, B.R. and Utzurrum, R.C.B. (1998) A synopsis of the mammalian fauna of the Philippine Islands. Fieldiana Zoology new series, 88: 1 - 61.
  7. Heckel, J.O. (2008) Pers. comm.
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Image credit

Male Visayan spotted deer by tree  
Male Visayan spotted deer by tree

© Daniel Heuclin / www.photoshot.com

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