Visayan spotted deer

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Visayan spotted deer [1]
Visayan Spotted Deer (Rusa alfredi).jpg
At the Edinburgh Zoo, Edinburgh, Scotland
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Cervidae
Subfamily: Cervinae
Genus: Rusa
R. alfredi
Binomial name
Rusa alfredi
(Sclater, 1870)

Cervus alfrediSclater, 1870

The Visayan spotted deer (Rusa alfredi), also known as the Philippine spotted deer or Prince Alfred's deer, is a nocturnal and endangered species of deer located primarily in the rainforests of the Visayan islands of Panay and Negros though it once roamed other islands such as Cebu, Guimaras, Leyte, Masbate, and Samar. It is one of three endemic deer species in the Philippines, although it was not recognized as a separate species until 1983. An estimated 2,500 mature individuals survived worldwide as of 1996, according to the IUCN, although it is uncertain of how many of them still survive in the wild. The diet of the deer, which consists of a variety of different types of grasses, leaves, and buds within the forest, is the primary indicator of its habitat. Since 1991 the range of the species has severely decreased and is now almost co-extensive with that of the Visayan warty pig.

Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

Alfred reigned as Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha from 1893 to 1900. He was the second son and fourth child of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. He was known as the Duke of Edinburgh from 1866 until he succeeded his paternal uncle Ernest II as the reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in the German Empire.

Endangered species Species of organisms facing a very high risk of extinction

An endangered species is a species which has been categorized as very likely to become extinct. Endangered (EN), as categorized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, is the second most severe conservation status for wild populations in the IUCN's schema after Critically Endangered (CR).

Deer A family of mammals belonging to even-toed ungulates

Deer are the hoofed ruminant mammals forming the family Cervidae. The two main groups of deer are the Cervinae, including the muntjac, the elk (wapiti), the fallow deer, and the chital; and the Capreolinae, including the reindeer (caribou), the roe deer, and the moose. Female reindeer, and male deer of all species except the Chinese water deer, grow and shed new antlers each year. In this they differ from permanently horned antelope, which are part of a different family (Bovidae) within the same order of even-toed ungulates (Artiodactyla).


In April 2009 a expedition team of British and Filipino mountaineers and scientists discovered evidence of two separate groups of deer in the North Negros Natural Park. These signs (scat and feeding sites) are believed to be the first scientific evidence of the deer's activity for over 25 years. It is estimated that an estimated 300 animals survive on the island of Negros. Conservation efforts are currently underway with the intention of preserving the remaining population of the species but are poorly funded and supported.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom (UK), officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

Philippines Republic in Southeast Asia

The Philippines, officially the Republic of the Philippines, is an archipelagic country in Southeast Asia. Situated in the western Pacific Ocean, it consists of about 7,641 islands that are categorized broadly under three main geographical divisions from north to south: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The capital city of the Philippines is Manila and the most populous city is Quezon City, both part of Metro Manila. Bounded by the South China Sea on the west, the Philippine Sea on the east and the Celebes Sea on the southwest, the Philippines shares maritime borders with Taiwan to the north, Vietnam to the west, Palau to the east, and Malaysia and Indonesia to the south.

Negros Island island of the Philippines

Negros is the fourth largest island of the Philippines, with a land area of 13,309.60 km2 (5,138.87 sq mi). Negros is one of the many islands that comprise the Visayas, which forms the central division of the nation. The predominant inhabitants of the island region are mainly called Negrenses. As of 2015, Negros' total population is 4,414,131 inhabitants.

In 2012, the Negros Interior Biodiversity Expedition camera trapped the centre of the North Negros Natural Park and gained the first photos take in the wild of the species.


Female specimen in captivity Cervus alfredi.jpg
Female specimen in captivity
Young male Cervus alfredi5.jpg
Young male

The deer is small and short-legged yet it is the largest endemic species of deer among the Visayas. Adults range from 125 to 130 cm (49 to 51 in) long from the head to the base of the tail, 70 to 80 cm (28 to 31 in) in shoulder height and 25 to 80 kg (55 to 176 lb) in weight. This species is easily distinguished from other species of deer in the Philippines by the distinctive "A" pattern of beige spots which dot its deep brown back and sides. Other distinctive features include cream underparts and white fur on the chin and lower lip. The animal's head and neck are brown, but lighter than the body, and the eyes are ringed with paler fur. Males are larger than females and have short, thick, bumpy antlers. [3]

Endemism Ecological state of being unique to a defined geographic location or habitat

Endemism is the ecological state of a species being unique to a defined geographic location, such as an island, nation, country or other defined zone, or habitat type; organisms that are indigenous to a place are not endemic to it if they are also found elsewhere. The extreme opposite of endemism is cosmopolitan distribution. An alternative term for a species that is endemic is precinctive, which applies to species that are restricted to a defined geographical area.

Behavioral Adaptations


The species' range once covered the shoreline up to at least 2,000 m above sea level. Its habitat is in dense cogon grassland, and primary and secondary forest. Most of its habitat consists of areas where its diet of young shoots of cogon grass and young low-growing leaves and buds are plentiful. Besides areas that are dense in vegetation, it could also thrive in places it could graze. They may also visit burnt-out forest clearings for the floral ash. Due to the now restricted range of the deer, it is impossible to ascertain the preferred habitat of the species. [2]

<i>Imperata cylindrica</i> species of grass in the family Poaceae

Imperata cylindrica is a species of grass in the family Poaceae. Red cultivars of the species grown as ornamental plants are known as Japanese bloodgrass.

<i>Fraxinus</i> genus of plants

Fraxinus, English name ash, is a genus of flowering plants in the olive and lilac family, Oleaceae. It contains 45–65 species of usually medium to large trees, mostly deciduous, though a few subtropical species are evergreen. The genus is widespread across much of Europe, Asia, and North America.


The deer breed from November to December, although mating could begin earlier. Males have a roaring call to attract females. Reports mostly mention a single calf with a mated pair, although conclusive evidence on the number of young is not available because of the rarity of sightings. Calves are born after a gestation period of around 240 days. Weaning takes place at six months and the calves are mature from 12 months. [3]

Gestation is the period of development during the carrying of an embryo or fetus inside viviparous animals. It is typical for mammals, but also occurs for some non-mammals. Mammals during pregnancy can have one or more gestations at the same time for example in a multiple birth.


This species is fully protected under Philippine law. Hunting and forest clearances as a result of logging activities and agricultural conversion are thought to be the causes of a devastating drop in the numbers of the deer (a 1991 survey found that the deer was present in only 5% of its former range). Despite this, the deer still exist in the more remote areas, specifically in the protected habitats of Mt. Canlaon National Park, North Negros Forest Reserve, Southern Candoni, and West Panay Mountains (a proposed National Park). In 1990, the Philippine Spotted Deer Conservation Program was set up to facilitate the conservation of the species. Some of the deer have been held in captivity in Mari-it Conservation Centre in Panay, two breeding centers in Negros, and in a number of European zoos. [3]

Panay island in the Philippines

Panay is the sixth-largest and fourth most-populous island in the Philippines, with a total land area of 12,011 km2 (4,637 sq mi) and with a total population of 4,477,247. Panay comprises 4.4 percent of the entire population of the country. The City of Iloilo is its largest settlement with a total population of 447,992 inhabitants. It is a triangular island, located in the western part of the Visayas. It is about 160 km (99 mi) across. It is divided into four provinces: Aklan, Antique, Capiz and Iloilo, all in the Western Visayas Region. Just closely off the mid-southeastern coast lies the island-province of Guimaras. It is located southeast of the island of Mindoro and northwest of Negros across the Guimaras Strait. To the north and northeast is the Sibuyan Sea, Jintotolo Channel and the island-provinces of Romblon and Masbate; to the west and southwest is the Sulu Sea and the Palawan archipelago and to the south is Panay Gulf. Panay is the only main island in the Visayas whose provinces don't bear the name of their island.

Since 1987, Silliman University Mammal Conservation Program, through the Center for Tropical Studies (CENTROP), has been engaged in the deer's captive breeding. The success of the program has led some of the captive-bred to be released in the interior forests of southern Negros, particularly in the interior of Basay, Negros Oriental. [4]


Deforestation has greatly contributed in the decline of the deer. Hunting, both by locals and sport hunters has also made an impact; subsistence hunting, sales of venison to local markets and speciality restaurants, and live trapping for the pet trade have all contributed to the species' dwindling numbers. Isolation and reduction of population is likely to have led to some herds becoming moribund. While cross-breeding with R. mariannus has been observed in captivity, the lack of a common range means this is unlikely to be a problem in the wild. [2]

Due to the severe pressures faced by the deer, the IUCN has twice listed it as an endangered species: firstly in 1994 (when it was de-listed within the year) and again in 1996 (which listing has continued until the present). The limited numbers of the animal in the wild (at least 300, down from almost 1,600) has led to the belief that prospects for its survival are bleak. [2]


On April 2009, footprints and animal droppings belonging to the creature were found in the North Negros Natural Park by a scientific team of six British, five Filipinos, and one Irishman, who were studying the biodiversity of the park. The team, who were from Negros Interior Biodiversity Expedition, estimate that less 300 members of the species survive. The team discovered a set of footprints beside a river three days into the expedition. The distance between these footprints and a half-eaten set of young palm trees, which were found three days later, indicated that two groups of deer might be present in the nature preserve. Subsequently, the team found small piles of 20 to 30 pellets with a trail of deer footprints leading away. Because "other species such as the Visayan warty pigs and civet cats have distinctly different scat", the team were confident that the pellets belonged to the deer. This was the first evidence of a live wild population of the deer for more than ten years. The team was thrilled by their success, although one of the expedition leaders, Craig Turner, admitted "this discovery confirms [the deer] are surviving, but doesn't tell us they are thriving". Besides the deer, other species discovered were some unusual plants, including ground orchids and pitcher plants, and many bird and frog species. Specimens were sent to the cities of Bacolod and Dumaguete for further analysis. [5] [6] [7]

The animal was later featured in a front-page story in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on 24 May 2009 in the story "The World's Rarest Deer Still Roam Negros". In the story, the British Ambassador declared the find "an exciting discovery". The expedition team is reportedly set to present their findings to the Royal Geographical Society. [4] Researchers involved in the expedition commented that "more protection" of the deer and similar endangered species in the park [is needed] "in order to assure their survival". They also said in the statement that "Philippine forests still harbor many rare and unique species, found nowhere else in the world". [8]

The expedition was sponsored by several environmental institutions and foundations, which are interested in promoting and protecting the biodiversity, present within the United Kingdom as well as in the Visayas in the Philippines, such as the Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation Inc., Silliman University, Coral Cay Conservation, and the Zoological Society of London.

In 2013, there were reports of sightings in the Southern Candoni region, indicating Silliman's releases in Basay have successfully expanded north.

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  2. 1 2 3 4 Oliver, W.; MacKinnon, J.; Heaney, L. & Lastica, E. (2008). "Rusa alfredi". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2008. International Union for Conservation of Nature . Retrieved 9 April 2009. Listed as Endangered (EN C2a(i))
  3. 1 2 3 "Visayan spotted deer - Rusa alfredi - Information". ARKive. Archived from the original on 2013-01-12. Retrieved 2009-07-29.
  4. 1 2 "Spotting the spotted deer - Leonor Magtolis Briones". ABS-CBN News. Retrieved 2009-07-07.
  5. "Rare deer reveals signs of life". BBC Earth News. 2009-05-22. Retrieved 2009-07-07.
  6. Powell Ettinger (2009-07-22). "Wildlife Extra News - World's rarest deer found alive and well on Philippine islands". Retrieved 2009-07-29.
  7. "New plant, animal species found in Negros province - Regions - Official Website of GMA News and Public Affairs - Latest Philippine News". GMANews.TV. 2009-04-21. Retrieved 2009-07-29.
  8. "World's rarest deer still roam Negros -, Philippine News for Filipinos". 2009-05-24. Retrieved 2009-07-29.