Muntiacus montanus 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Cetartiodactyla Cervidae

Scientific Name: Muntiacus montanus
Species Authority: Robinson & Kloss, 1918
Common Name(s):
English Sumatran Mountain Muntjac
Taxonomic Notes: The muntjac taxon montanus has generally been considered to lie within Muntiacus muntjak (Robinson and Kloss 1918, Chasen 1940, Corbet and Hill 1992, Grubb 2005), although there are reasonable grounds to consider it specifically distinct from that taxon (Robinson and Kloss 1918, C. Groves pers. comm. 2005, R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008). It was treated as a distinct species by Miller (1942) on the basis of a single specimen available to him that clearly was not conspecific with Muntiacus muntjak muntjak, which also inhabits Sumatra. He was not able to examine Robinson and Kloss’s specimens and so retained a margin of doubt that his skull was conspecific with the latter. There remain very few validated records of the taxon, which externally is not greatly different from M. muntjak, which together continues to cloud its treatment as a valid species.

As with muntjacs in Borneo (Groves and Grubb 1982), there has doubtless been some confusion and misidentification of Sumatran specimens in past literature. Reviewers including Miller (1942), Van Bemmel (1952), and Groves and Grubb (1990) certainly or apparently had no access to the specimens used to describe the taxon. This may well have led to erroneous views on the taxon’s diagnostic features. The holotype is in the Natural History Museum, London (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008), rather than lost, contrary to Van Bemmel (1952). The degree of misidentification of specimens, if any, can be determined only through thorough re-evaluation of Sumatran muntjac specimens, including those used by previous authors. Further confusion has arisen through suggestions that M. montanus is the Sumatran ‘equivalent’ of Bornean M. atherodes, the two having features in common (formerly mistakenly called M. pleiharicus, which name is now recognised to be the valid name for the race of M. muntjak on Borneo), although the two species show very little similarity in characters that are likely to be taxonomically informative (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008). There has also been a pre-eminence awarded by authors such as Van Bemmel (1952) to use of general body pelage, body size and antler size for distinction between the two Sumatran muntjac species, characters which are unlikely to be diagnostic in any way (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008). These appear to be the primary characters used by Van Bemmel (1952) when concluding that a specimen from “Tebing Tinggi, lowlands of Deli, East Sumatra … is more or less intermediate between [M. m. muntjak and M. montanus]…” and “proof that M. m. montanus cannot be regarded as a good species”. Van Bemmel (1952) mentions nothing of the large size of the preorbital fossa, identified by Miller (1942), or specific details about the crown pelage of females, both likely to be main diagnostic characteristics of the species (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008, neither character were mentioned by Groves and Grubb 1990).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Data Deficient ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2015-11-19
Assessor(s): Timmins, R.J., Duckworth, J.W. & Groves, C.P.
Reviewer(s): Brook, S.M. & McShea, W.J.
Muntiacus montanus is listed as Data Deficient largely because there has seemingly been little acknowledgement of the species’ potential existence, and thus most work apparently continues to assume that only one muntjac species is present on Sumatra (A. Wilting pers. comm. 2015). It is thus impossible to ascertain even the species’ relative status and distribution let alone, habitat and altitude use, other aspects of ecology, levels of potential threats, and resilience to such threats. Particularly because of the suggestion that the species is montane, it may well be Least Concern if it occurs from Kerinci to Leuser and in all intervening highlands. At worst it might be Near Threatened, if it is peculiarly sensitive to the effects of hunting, or is absolutely dependent upon primary forest. If it is highly restricted in range (i.e. the Leuser specimen is of a different taxon), then M. montanus could meet a threat category through a range criterion. If it has most of its population at low to medium altitudes (which seems unlikely), and a small range (which also seems unlikely), and is highly sensitive to hunting (which would perhaps be unusual among muntjacs), then it could potentially qualify for a high threat category. No new information has been received since 2008 to enable a reassessment of M. montanus in 2014.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The distribution of M. montanus is uncertain. It is known only from specimens collected from western Sumatra, Indonesia, and has never been suspected to occur anywhere off the island. The known localities are Sungai Kering (spelled as Sungei Kring in the Dutch colonial era), a river draining from the south east massif of Gunung Kerinci), Gunung Kerinci [= Korinchi Peak], Kerinci district, Jambi province, and Sungai Kambang [= Sungai Kumbang], Pesisir Selatan district of West Sumatra province (Robinson and Kloss 1918, D. Martyr pers. comm. 2008). Miller (1942) described a specimen very likely to be this species (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008) from Gunung Leuser [= Mount Löser], Aceh Province, in the north of Sumatra. Van Bemmel (1952) mentioned a specimen from Redelong, Aceh, in the Zoological Museum, Amsterdam, and also gave the distribution as including Gunung Talamau (= Mount Ophir) based on Jacobson (1919, basis for record uncertain) and Gunung Kerinci (= Mount Indrapura) based on reports, as well as the lowlands of Deli, east Sumatra. However, all these localities additional to Kerinci should be considered provisional, notably Deli, because it is not clear from descriptions in Van Bemmel (1952) that the muntjacs he attributed to M. montanus were in fact this species (see Taxonomic Note). There are several modern records. A female muntjac released from a snare (and photographed) at about 1,920 m asl at Ladeh Panjang on the western slopes of Gn. Kerinci, and a male photographed on the south-eastern side of Mt Gunung Tujuh (about 15 km south-east of Ladeh Panjang) at about 1,900 m asl, both locations being within Kerinci Seblat National Park (Kerinci district, Jambi province), each show at least one character likely to be diagnostic of the species (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008 based on photograph and data provided by D. Martyr and J. Holden). Several other animals photographed in the Kerinci Seblat National Park are either best considered unidentifiable, or most probably M. muntjak (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008 based on photograph and data provided by D. Martyr and J. Holden).

It seems very likely that M. montanus is a montane form. The Bukit Barisan mountain chain runs almost uninterrupted along the length of Sumatra, and there does not seem to be an obvious ecological break for restricting species to southern Sumatran mountains such as Kerinci. However, the area south of Lake Toba (about 2°45′N, 99°35′E) has several passes of somewhat lower land and has been suspected to be a faunal break for some species (Whitten et al. 1987), but survey to date has been insufficient to be sure that it truly comprise a barrier of distribution for any large mammal (e.g. Meiri et al. 2007). Whether M. montanus occurs the length of the chain is therefore difficult to predict.

This paucity of information is partly the result of the synonymy of montanus with M. muntjac in the lengthy review of Van Bemmel (1952), thereby no doubt dousing subsequent authors’ enthusiasm to differentiate muntjacs in Sumatra. In any case, there are very few specimens of muntjacs from Sumatra in easily accessible western institutions, and at least within the RMNH, NHM, AMNH, NMNH and FMNH, the only specimens of M. montanus found by R.J. Timmins (pers. comm. 2008) are those of the type series (the small majority of other identifiable specimens being M. muntjac). Other specimens or records of the species may exist, especially within Indonesia, but there is no confirmation of this.
Countries occurrence:
Additional data:
Lower elevation limit (metres):1430
Upper elevation limit (metres):2830
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Nothing is known of population levels or, directly, trends. There are almost 30,000 km² of land above 1,000 m asl in Sumatra (Meiri et al. 2007) but it is unknown how much of this is actually occupied by this muntjac, nor indeed whether 1,000 m is an appropriate altitudinal cut-off. Hunters describe muntjacs in montane areas as ‘rare’ (D. Martyr pers. comm. 2008).
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:The specimens collected by Robinson and Kloss (1918) came from altitudes of 7,300 and 4,700 feet (2,225 m and 1,430 m asl), and that reported on by Miller (1942) was obtained at 9,300 feet (2,830 m asl), all were presumably in montane forest. The two recent records of the species came from 1,900–1,925 m asl. The species may thus be primarily montane. Robinson and Kloss (1918), who only definitely recorded M. montanus at higher elevations, also acquired “a large number of antlers and frontlets” and two skins from local communities in the ‘Korinchi valley’ and suspected these were identifiable as from both M. muntjak and M. montanus, they did not acquire any M. muntjak specimens themselves from their time in the forest. There are relatively few specimens of M. muntjak from Sumatra, and R.J. Timmins (pers. comm. 2008) is not aware of the altitudinal range from which these animals were taken (many historical specimens lack altitudinal data), thus without a thorough re-evaluation of muntjac records from Sumatra (and collection of new data) the ecological relationship between the two species including their respective altitudinal distributions is little more than speculation.

Local hunters in the Kerinci Seblat National Park recognise two forms of muntjac, each of which has a distinctive local name. One is said to be smaller, darker, with small antlers and occurs only in the mountains (D. Martyr pers. comm. 2008). Caution, however, should be taken in assuming that the local names correspond precisely to the two taxonomically defined species M. montanus and M. muntjak, as local people probably use slightly different ‘diagnostic’ characteristics in their taxonomy from those generally used in ‘scientific’ systematics of Muntiacus (for instance elevation might be used as one of the characters). In Indochina, although in some areas local taxonomies and names appear to be based on nominal species of muntjac, it is clear when such taxonomies are tested against empirically defined species boundaries that there is not 100% congruence (in some instances congruence is very poor) (Timmins et al. 1998, R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008). This is likely to be especially the case in Sumatra, given the close similarity in general body pelage of M. montanus with Sumatran M. muntjak (Robinson and Kloss 1918, Van Bemmel 1952, R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008).

Aspects of ecology are predicted to resemble those of other Muntiacus species of broad-leaved evergreen forests.

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: There are no use and trade data available directly referred to this species. It is expected to be a preferred prey species for poachers, like other members of the genus.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Poaching pressure in Kerinci-Seblat National Park is fairly high. Ungulates are the main hunting target. Among them, snaring was found to be greatest for muntjacs and lowest for chevrotains and serow, the target species were assessed by the diameter of the cable (Linkie et al. 2003). Muntjacs are almost invariably hunted with snares and primarily for meat, either for household use or for sale in village markets. Unlike Sambar Cervus unicolor, there seems no significant market for the antlers of this muntjac (which are small) and there is no recorded market for medicinal purposes (D. Martyr pers. comm. 2008). A figure of 51 snares (mostly of size suitable for muntjac) were found in a one km² area and this was regarded by Linkie et al. (2003) as indicating very high snaring pressure. It is, however, well within the snaring densities found within various Viet Namese and Lao forests which retain muntjacs after a decade or more of such pressures, although it is likely that populations are declining and their long-term viability is unclear (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008). Indeed, J. Holden (pers. comm. 2008), in the unique position of substantial direct field experience in both these areas, stated that “hunting pressure even in the worst affected forests of Kerinci does not come close to that in Indochina”. Caution therefore needs to be drawn in inferring anything about the level of threat, if any, that such snaring poses to this muntjac at the population level. Moreover, without knowing the relative distribution of the two muntjac species in Kerinci it is impossible to speculate meaningfully on the effects of hunting on M. montanus specifically: hunting intensity in montane Sumatra is patchy, and although high on Gunung Kerinci, many other montane areas within Kerinci Seblat National Park are little visited by hunters (J. Holden pers. comm. 2008). Hunters say that they prefer to trap muntjacs at lower altitudes as these animals are generally larger than are those at high altitudes which, hunters advise, rarely if ever yield more than 14 kg of meat (D. Martyr pers. comm. 2008).

The montane forests of Sumatra are generally still in relatively good condition although under increasing pressure (D. Martyr pers. comm. 2008).The major threat facing them is, in contrast to much of the rest of the Greater Sundas, not logging but conversion to small-holder and other agriculture, in particular coffee plantations and temperate vegetables. This is accelerating as opportunities for clearance of lowland and lower hill forests decrease because so little is left (e.g. Holden et al. 2003: 39). This forest loss takes place even though most of these forests are under statutory protection for their catchment function or fall within national parks or nature reserves. Pressures are locally very high: almost 40 per cent of one mountain has been cleared in the last 10 years (D. Martyr pers. comm. 2008). Elsewhere, many other montane areas within Kerinci Seblat National Park are at present relatively safe from habitat conversion (J. Holden pers. comm. 2008). Montane forest is also under threat in some areas from mining interests for gold, silver, copper and other mineral resources while pressure for road-building through protected areas continues to threaten core habitats. Conversion of flatter hill and lowland hill forests, legal or otherwise, along the Barisan mountains has fragmented many forest blocks (D. Martyr pers. comm. 2008). The ability to infer anything about threat levels to M. montanus from the ongoing forest degradation and conversion in Sumatra’s highlands is hindered by the lack of understanding of the adaptability of M. montanus to degradation and fragmentation, although it presumably cannot survive outright conversion to non-forest.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Indonesian forestry law protects all species of muntjac and so M. montanus, despite its position of taxonomic uncertainty, has unambiguous statutory protection in law. Species protection laws relating to ungulates in many areas of Sumatra have not been widely publicized. A significant percentage of Sumatra’s montane forests are protected either as national parks, nature reserves, or Hutan Lindung (protected watershed forests). Unfortunately, protected areas and the authorities responsible for conservation of catchment forests are often under-funded and almost all are grossly understaffed so that there is little ranger presence in the field. Where there are field ranger teams, these focus generally on flagship species such as Elephants Elephas maximus, Sumatran Rhinoceros Dicerorhinus sumatrensis or Tiger Panthera tigris, although Tiger protection rangers do also conduct ungulate protection activities and in 2007 three hunters arrested in the national park with two muntjacs carcasses received custodial sentences at Kerinci district court (D. Martyr pers. comm. 2008).

Some of the known records come from within protected areas, although the operational conservation significance of that is currently minimal: deforestation occurs at higher rates in state forests, including national parks, than in forests owned by communities (Kinnaird et al. 2003).

To evaluate conservation measures required, any more precisely than to reiterate the need for protection of Sumatran forest and application of existing wildlife laws, the conservation status of M. montanus needs to be clarified. This must start with taxonomic clarification, using as many specimens as possible, as well as other more modern materials such as camera-trap photographs. Once diagnostic characteristics have been established, surveys are needed across the island to determine actual distribution and status and, if the species is not common, the locations of populations of conservation priority. Such status assessment might be achieved by a camera-trapping project, noting that in external features M. montanus may be very close to M. muntjak muntjak. The collection of body parts from hunters is likely to be a vital component of taxonomic clarification and status assessment.

Citation: Timmins, R.J., Duckworth, J.W. & Groves, C.P. 2016. Muntiacus montanus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T136831A22168363. . Downloaded on 23 March 2017.
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