Eld's deer

Last updated

Eld's deer
Panolia eldii thamin.jpg
Burmese brow-antlered deer at Chester Zoo
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Cervidae
Subfamily: Cervinae
Genus: Rucervus
Species:
R. eldii
Binomial name
Rucervus eldii
(McClelland, 1842)
Synonyms
  • Cervus eldii(M'Clelland, 1842)
  • Panolia eldiGray, 1850
  • Panolia eldiiPocock, 1943

Eld's deer (Rucervus eldii), [2] also known as the thamin or brow-antlered deer, is an endangered species of deer endemic to South Asia. [1]

Contents

Taxonomy

The species was first described by John McClelland in 1840 based on specimens obtained in Manipur, India. [3] It was described more detailed by Percy Eld in 1841; it was suggested to call the deer Cervus Eldii. [4] McClelland coined the scientific name Cervus (Rusa) frontals in 1843. [5] In 1850, John Edward Gray proposed the name Panolia eldii for the deer. [6] [7]

The three subspecies of the Eld's deer are: [1]

Appearance

The following measurements have been reported for the Eld's deer: [10] [11] [12] [13]

Lt. Percy Eld of the Bengal army, portrait sketch by Colesworthey Grant (1839) Percy Eld.jpg
Lt. Percy Eld of the Bengal army, portrait sketch by Colesworthey Grant (1839)

The deer are generally of medium size and are similar to the size and shape of the related barasingha (R. duvaucelli). The species has a very regal and graceful Cervus -like 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. [10] [12] [13]

Conservation status

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

The first illustration of Eld's deer Cervus frontalis.jpg
The first illustration of Eld's deer

India

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 Rucervus eldii eldii, the sangai in Meitei. 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. [14]

" '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 Meitei 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. [15]

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. [15] [16] 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.[ needs update ]

A successful captive breeding programme is underway at the Alipore Zoological Gardens in Kolkata, and many specimens of the deer have been bred here. [10] [11]

Burma

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 (Axis porcinus), and sambhar (Rusa 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] [17] For a crosscheck 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 radiocollared deer, supported by field studies by the scientists, revealed: [17]

  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: [18]

"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 foresta 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

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

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

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 R. e. thamin in Myanmar and R. 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] [12]

Brief particulars of the three subspecies

Rucervus eldii eldii or sangai in Manipur Sangai.jpg
Rucervus eldii eldii 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 birthing occurring:. [1] [12] [13]

Rucervus eldii thamin of Burma and Thailand Burma-thamin.jpg
Rucervus eldii thamin of Burma and Thailand
Rucervus eldii siamens of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam Deer CMZ 5.jpg
Rucervus eldii siamens of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam

Numbers in the wild

In India, the Eld's deer sangai subspecies is confined to the peculiar floating bog called Phumdis in Loktak Lake and is numbered at less than a few hundred animals. The subspecies R. 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] [10] [17] The estimated figures are:

Numbers in captivity (zoos)

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

Peculiarities

Peculiarities to each subspecies include: [1]

Habits

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] [10] [11] [19]

Threats

Thamin are prized as game by hunters due to their impressive antlers and hides that are in demand in local markets. They are also widely hunted for food; they were believed to have been used to feed armies during many Asian wars. Their population has additionally declined due to intense development activities necessitating reclamation of land for grazing, cultivation and fish farming within their range. In Myanmar, 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. [10] The film The Return of Sangai is a documentary by George Thengummoottil about the species in Keibul Lamjao National Park.[ citation needed ]

Related Research Articles

Loktak Lake Lake in North East India

Loktak Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake in India. It is a pulsating lake, with surface area varying from 250 sq km to 500 sq km during rainy season with a typical area of 287 sq km. The lake is located at Moirang in Manipur state, India. The etymology of Loktak is Lok = "stream" and tak = "the end".It is famous for the phumdis floating over it. The largest of all the phumdis covers an area of 40 km2 (15 sq mi) and is situated on the southeastern shore of the lake. Located on this phumdi, Keibul Lamjao National Park is the only floating national park in the world. The park is the last natural refuge of the endangered Sangai, Rucervus eldii eldii or Manipur brow-antlered deer, one of three subspecies of Eld's deer.

Keibul Lamjao National Park National park in Manipur, India

The Keibul Lamjao National Park is a national park in the Bishnupur district of the state of Manipur in India. It is 40 km2 (15.4 sq mi) in area, the only floating park in the world, located in North East India, and an integral part of Loktak Lake.

Sambar deer Species of deer

The sambar is a large deer native to the Indian subcontinent, South China, and Southeast Asia that is listed as a vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List since 2008. Populations have declined substantially due to severe hunting, local insurgency, and industrial exploitation of habitat.

Schomburgks deer Extinct species of deer

The Schomburgk's deer is an extinct species of deer once endemic to central Thailand. It was described by Edward Blyth in 1863 and named after Sir Robert H. Schomburgk, who was the British consul in Bangkok from 1857 to 1864. It is thought to have gone extinct by 1938, when the last records of the species were published.

Barasingha species of deer

The barasingha, also called swamp deer, is a deer species distributed in the Indian subcontinent. Populations in northern and central India are fragmented, and two isolated populations occur in southwestern Nepal. It has been extirpated in Pakistan and Bangladesh, and its presence is uncertain in Bhutan.

Chin Hills–Arakan Yoma montane forests

The Chin Hills-Arakan Yoma montane forests is a tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forest ecoregion in western Myanmar (Burma). Surrounded at lower elevations by moist tropical forests, this ecoregion is home a diverse range of subtropical and temperate species, including many species characteristic of the Himalayas, as well as many endemic species.

Wildlife of Cambodia

The wildlife of Cambodia is very diverse with at least 162 mammal species, 600 bird species, 176 reptile species, 900 freshwater fish species, 670 invertebrate species, and more than 3000 plant species. A single protected area, Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary, is known to support more than 950 total species, including 75 species that are listed as globally threatened on the IUCN Red List. An unknown amount of species remains to be described by science, especially the insect group of butterflies and moths, collectively known as lepidopterans.

Southeastern Indochina dry evergreen forests Ecoregion in Southeastern Indochina

The Southeastern Indochina dry evergreen forests are a tropical dry broadleaf forest ecoregion of Indochina.

Ratanakiri Province in northeastern Cambodia is home to many species of animals. One 1996 survey of an area to the northwest of Lomphat Wildlife Sanctuary recorded 44 mammals, 76 birds, and 9 reptile species. The following is an incomplete list of species recorded in Ratanakiri.

Mu River river in Myanmar

Mu River is a river in upper central Myanmar (Burma), and a tributary of the country's chief river the Ayeyarwady. It drains the Kabaw valley and part of the Dry Zone between the Ayeyarwady to the east and its largest tributary Chindwin River to the west, flows directly north to south for about 275 km (171 mi) and enters the Ayeyarwady west of Sagaing near Myinmu.

Sangai Subspecies of deer

The sangai is an endemic and endangered subspecies of Eld's deer found only in Manipur, India. It is also the state animal of Manipur. Its common English name is Manipur brow-antlered deer or Eld's deer and the scientific name is Rucervus eldii eldii. Its original natural habitat is the floating marshy grasslands of the Keibul Lamjao National Park, located in the southern parts of the Loktak Lake, which is the largest freshwater lake in eastern India.

Reserved wild animals are the highest class of protection for animal species in Thailand's wildlife conservation framework. There are currently nineteen designated species, defined by The Wild Animal Conservation and Protection Act B.E. 2562 (2019). The 2019 act replaced the original law from 1992. The law prohibits hunting, breeding, possessing, or trading any of such species, except when done for scientific research with permission from the Permanent Secretary of National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, or breeding and possession by authorised public zoos.

Ang Trapaing Thmor

Ang Trapaing Thmor is a 129.06 km2 (49.83 sq mi) protected forest in northwestern Cambodia that was established in 1999. The reserve was set aside to protect the rare eastern sarus crane. Prior to the discovery of the crane at Trapaing Thmor, there were thought to be fewer than 1,000 of the birds left alive in the world.

Phumdi Phumdis in Manipur, India

Phumdis are a series of floating islands, exclusive to the Loktak Lake in Manipur state, in northeastern India. They cover a substantial part of the lake area and are heterogeneous masses of vegetation, soil and organic matter, in different stages of decay. The largest single mass of phumdi is in the southeastern part of the lake, covering an area of 40 km2 (15.4 sq mi). This mass constitutes the world’s largest floating park, named Keibul Lamjao National Park. The park was formed to preserve the endangered Eld's deer subspecies, called sangai in the Meitei language, indigenous to this area.

Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary

Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary is a protected area in Myanmar's Sagaing Region that was established in 1941, stretching over an area of 260.07 km2 (100.41 sq mi). It is located in Kanbalu Township.

<i>Rucervus</i> Genus of mammals belonging to the deer, muntjac, roe deer, reindeer, and moose family of ruminants

Rucervus is a genus of deer from India, Nepal, Indochina, and the Chinese island of Hainan. The only extant representatives, the barasingha and Eld's deer, are threatened by habitat loss and hunting, and another species became extinct in 1938. The species of the genus Rucervus are characterized by a specific antler structure: its basal ramification is often supplemented with an additional small prong, the middle tine is never present, while the crown tines are inserted on the posterior side of the beam and may be bifurcated or fused into a small palmation.

Central Indochina dry forests Ecoregion in Central Indochina

The Central Indochina dry forests are a large tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf forests ecoregion in Southeast Asia.

Indochinese leopard Leopard subspecies

The Indochinese leopard is a leopard subspecies native to mainland Southeast Asia and southern China. In Indochina, leopards are rare outside protected areas and threatened by habitat loss due to deforestation as well as poaching for the illegal wildlife trade. The population trend is suspected to be decreasing. As of 2016, the population is thought to comprise 973–2,503 mature individuals, with only 409–1,051 breeding adults. The historical range has decreased by more than 90%.

Sangai festival

Sangai festival is an annual cultural festival organised by Manipur Tourism Department every year from 21 to 30 November. Even though many editions of this Festival has been celebrated over the past few years with the name of Tourism Festival, since 2010 this has been renamed as the Sangai Festival to stage the uniqueness of the shy and gentle brow-antlered deer popularly known as the Sangai, a regional name given to this rare species of deer. It is the state animal of Manipur. As this festival is being celebrated to promote Manipur as a world class tourism destination, it showcases the states contributions to art and culture, handloom, handicrafts, fine arts, indigenous sports, cuisine, music and adventure sports, as well as the natural environment. it is celebrated in different parts mainly in the valley areas of imphal. Many tourists come from all over the world and represent their craft making. Many people have also started to talk about the way Sangai festival is celebrated. They say that it should be celebrated only in one place with a proper arrangement and with big budget so that this festival grows more bigger and unique and spread all over the world.

Lawkananda Wildlife Sanctuary

Lawkananda Wildlife Sanctuary is a protected area in Myanmar's Mandalay Region, covering an area of 0.47 km2 (0.18 sq mi) and ranging in elevation from 45 to 70 m. It borders the Irrawaddy river close to Bagan and was established in 1995.

References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Gray, T.N.E.; Brook, S.M.; McShea, W.J.; Mahood, S.; Ranjitsingh, M.K.; Miyunt, A.; Hussain, S.A. & Timmins, R.J. (2015). "Rucervus eldii". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species . 2015: e.T4265A22166803. Retrieved 20 November 2020.
  2. 1 2 Pitraa, Fickela, Meijaard, Groves (2004). Evolution and phylogeny of old world deer. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 33: 880–895.
  3. McClelland, J. (1840). "Indication of a nondescript species of deer". Calcutta Journal of Natural History. 1: 501–502.
  4. McClelland, J. (1841). "Further notice of a nondescript species of deer indicated in the 4th number of the Cal. Jour. Nat., Hist. extracted from a letter of Lieut. ELD, Assistant to the Commissioner of Assam dated 21st May 1841, with a drawing of the horns, plate xii". Calcutta Journal of Natural History. 2: 415–417.
  5. McClelland, J. (1843). "Description of the Sungnai, Cervus (Rusa) frontals, McClell., a new species of deer inhabiting the valley of Moneypore, and brought to notice by Captain C.S. Guthrie, Bengal Engineers". Calcutta Journal of Natural History. 3: 401–409.
  6. Gray, J.E. (1850). "Panolia eldii. The Sungnai". Catalogue of the specimens of Mammalia in the collection of the British Museum. London: Printed by order of the Trustees. pp. 202–203.
  7. Beavan, R.C. (1867). "Contributions towards a history of Panolia eldi; McLelland". Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. 36 (3): 175–188.
  8. Groves (2006). The genus Cervus in eastern Eurasia. European Journal of Wildlife Research 52: 14-22.
  9. Balakrishnan, Monfort, Gaur, Singh and Sorenson (2003). Phylogeography and conservation genetics of Eld's deer (Cervus eldi). Molecular Ecology 12: 1-10.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Eld's deer (Cervus eldi". ARKieve: Images of Life on Earth. Archived from the original on 26 February 2013. Retrieved 5 April 2009.
  11. 1 2 3 "Sangai Deer (Cervus eldii eldii)". National Zoological Park, Mathura Road, New Delhi, India. Archived from the original on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 5 April 2009.
  12. 1 2 3 4 "Thamin or Brow-antlered Deer Cervus eldi". World Deer. Archived from the original on 26 March 2009. Retrieved 4 April 2009.
  13. 1 2 3 Richard Lydekker (1996). The Great and Small Game of India, Burma, and Tibet. Thamin. Asian Educational Services. pp. 236–238. ISBN   9788120611627 . Retrieved 5 April 2009.
  14. "Dance, Deer Sangai". Chandamama. 20 March 2008. Archived from the original on 8 July 2011. Retrieved 6 April 2009.
  15. 1 2 S. Sangsit (2003). "Dancing Deer of Manipur". News Letter, Wild Life Institute of India, Volume 10, number 3. Archived from the original on 16 November 2004. Retrieved 5 April 2009.
  16. "'Sangai' threatened by unbridled poaching". The Hindu. 30 March 2003. Archived from the original on 6 September 2009. Retrieved 5 April 2009.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  17. 1 2 3 Christen Wemmer. "The Thamin and a Place Called Chatthin". Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Archived from the original on 26 April 2009. Retrieved 5 April 2009.
  18. "Conservation GIS Projects:People and the Forests of Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary in Myanmar". Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Archived from the original on 12 June 2007. Retrieved 5 April 2009.
  19. "Cervus eldii M'Clelland,1842". Biology. Encyclopedia of Life. Retrieved 4 April 2009.