Moschus berezovskii


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Moschus berezovskii
Species Authority: Flerov, 1929
Common Name(s):
English Forest Musk Deer, Chinese Forest Musk Deer, Dwarf Musk Deer, South China Forest Musk Deer
Taxonomic Notes: This species was revised by Wang et al. (1993). It is a well-defined species sharply distinct from the parapatric or marginally sympatric M. chrysogaster; see Grubb (1982).

Four subspecies are recognized by Grubb (2005):
M. b. berezovskii Flerov, 1929; Sichuan, Qinghai, Tibet
M. b. bjiangensis Wang & Li, 2003; Northwestern Yunnan;
M. b. caobangis Dao, 1969; Yunnan, Guangxi, Guangdong, northern Viet Nam;
M. b. yunguiensis Wang & Ma, 1993; Yunnan-Guizhou highland, Hunan, Jiangxi; Wang (2003) lists an unnamed form as occurring in S Gansu, Ningxia, S Shaanxi, W Hubei and W Henan (Wang et al. (1993); Wemmer (1998).

M. anhuiensis has in the past been included in this species (Yang et al. 2003); it is still not clear whether or not the recognized subspecies are really part of this species. The subspecies M. b. caobangis is a good candidate for separate species status, but this has never been looked at (J.W. Duckworth pers. comm.). Until recently the Viet Namese population was considered to be M. moschiforus by Russian scientists (much literature follows this) (J.W. Duckworth pers. comm.).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered A2cd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Wang, Y. & Harris, R.B.
Reviewer(s): Black, P.A. & Gonzalez, S. (Deer Red List Authority)
Listed as Endangered because of a probable serious population decline, estimated to be more than 50% over the last three generations (approximately 21 years), inferred from over-exploitation, shrinkage in distribution, and habitat destruction and degradation. Although there is no direct data available regarding recent declining population rates, the above-mentioned rate of decline seems reasonable based on the high levels of harvesting and habitat loss. It should also be noted that the population in China was guessed at over one million in the 1960s; in 1978-1980 at less than 600,000; and in 1992 at 100,000 to 200,000 in 1992 (Sheng 1998), though the basis for these numbers is not clear. However, if this level of decline is roughly correct, then the species might even qualify for listing as Critically endangered under criterion A2cd.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: This species is widely distributed in central and southern China (Shaanxi, Gansu and Henan, south to southeastern Tibet, Yunnan, Guangxi, Guangdong and Jiangxi; Yang et al. 2003; Zhou et al. 2004). It extends to the eastern Himalayas and into northeastern Viet Nam, and perhaps northern Lao PDR (there is unresolved historical information that this species also used to exist in Lao PDR (Chebinaud 1942; J.W. Duckworth pers. comm.).
China; Viet Nam
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Estimating population sizes or trends for musk deer is very difficult, and has rarely been done satisfactorily. Population estimates over large-scale areas are subject to considerable uncertainty (and this is exacerbated in China by uncertainty over taxonomy). The population in China was guessed at over one million in the 1960s; in 1978-1980 at less than 600,000; and in 1992 at 100,000 to 200,000 in 1992 (Sheng 1998). However, the basis for these estimates is unclear, though the strong declining trend is likely to be correct. In the late 1990s, the population in Viet Nam was estimated at 200, but it is now very rare (Do Tuoc pers. comm.).
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This species inhabits coniferous or broad-leaved forests, or mixed forests and shrublands at high elevations (2,000-3,800 m). In Viet Nam it is found in karst habitats (J.W. Duckworth pers. comm.). Animals are most active between dusk and dawn, alternately resting and feeding. Forest Musk Deer eat leaves, grasses, moss, lichens, shoots, twigs. These animals are shy, sedentary, and remain within a defined home range throughout the year. Males utilize their large musk gland to defend their territory and attract mates. When alarmed they make great leaps with wild changes of direction. They can adroitly jump into trees to forage. Their main predators include leopard, marten, fox, wolf, lynx and especially humans. Gestation lasts 6.5 months, after which one or two young are born. During the first two months, the young deer lie hidden in secluded areas, independent of their mothers except at feeding times. They are weaned within 3-4 months and reach sexual maturity by 24 months. Animals may live up to 20 years. Home ranges of M. berezovskii were reported to be 5-10 ha in China by Sheng and Liu (2007).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The musk produced by this genus of primitive deer is highly valued for its cosmetic and alleged pharmaceutical properties, and can fetch U.S.$45,000 per kilogram (2.2 pounds) on the international market. Although this musk, produced in a gland of the males, can be extracted from live animals, most "musk-gatherers" kill the animals to remove the entire sac, which yields only about 25 grams (1/40 of a kilogram) of a brown waxy substance. Such poaching is relatively easy to accomplish and difficult to stop using only legal means (Harris 2007). Musk deer appear to require dense vegetation, either in the form of intact forests or shrublands; thus excessive forest clearing or grazing can preclude musk deer from using such lands (Yang et al. 2003). The Viet Namese population is heavily hunted by local people for medicinal use, and is thought to persist in the country in only four localities (Do Tuoc pers. comm.).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species is listed in CITES Appendix II. It is on the China Red List as Endangered (A1cd, B1c), and on the China Key List. Captive breeding, primarily for commercial musk production, occurs in various places in China, and might have some conservation benefit. However, to date, there is little evidence that the availability of musk from captive-bred animals has had a positive conservation impact in terms of reducing poaching pressure (Parry-Jones and Wu 2001, Green et al. 2007, Harris 2007).

Citation: Wang, Y. & Harris, R.B. 2008. Moschus berezovskii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <>. Downloaded on 03 July 2015.
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