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Moschus leucogaster

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA MAMMALIA CETARTIODACTYLA MOSCHIDAE

Scientific Name: Moschus leucogaster
Species Authority: Hodgson, 1839
Common Name(s):
English Himalayan Muskdeer, Himalayan Musk-deer, Himalayan Musk Deer
Synonym(s):
Moschus chrysogaster Hodgson, 1839 subspecies leucogaster
Taxonomic Notes: This taxon is sometimes treated as a Himalayan subspecies of Alpine Musk Deer M. chrysogaster (e.g. Grubb 1990), but it was separated by Groves and Grubb (1987) and by Groves et al. (1995) on the basis of different skull proportions.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered A2d ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Timmins, R.J. & Duckworth, J.W.
Reviewer(s): Black, P.A. & Gonzalez, S. (Deer Red List Authority)
Justification:
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, which is characteristic of this genus. 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. It should also be noted that the species has a relatively restricted range, and so its population is unlikely to be large.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: This species occurs in the Himalayas of Bhutan, northern India (including Sikkim), Nepal, and China (southwest Xizang) (Groves et al. 1995; Grubb 2005). Its occurrence in China is almost marginal (Yang et al. 2003, where treated as M. chrysogaster).
Countries:
Native:
Bhutan; China; India; Nepal
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Little is known of the species’s current status. There are very few in China, reflecting the small range there (Yang et al. 2003). It is believed to be declining throughout its range because of over-harvesting.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This species inhabits high alpine environments, with Groves et al. (1995) recording a lowest altitude of 2,500 m asl. It is poorly known, but its natural history is likely to be similar to that of M. chrysogaster. M. chrysogaster is found on barren plateaus at high altitudes, where it occupies meadows, fell-fields, shrublands or fir forests. It feeds mainly on grasses, shrubs, leaves, moss, lichens, shoots, and twigs (Green 1987). It is generally solitary and crepuscular (Harris and Cai 1993).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): There is a high trade in musk deer parts, particularly pods, into China and elsewhere in north-east Asia (see accounts for other Moschus species). Many relatively high-volume illicit wildlife trade links pass through M. leucogaster’s range, so it is certain to be under some level of threat from trade. The unstable taxonomy hampers abilities to assess threat levels directly to species, especially as parts like pods are not readily identifiable to species anyway.

Besides hunting for meat, which is considered a delicacy locally, hunting of the muskdeer is primarily for trade of musk glands. 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 the brown waxy substance. Such poaching is relatively easy to accomplish and difficult to stop using only legal means.

There is also some forest loss within its range for agriculture, timber and human settlement.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species is listed on CITES Appendix II (China) and Appendix I (all other countries), but this does not prevent rampant trade in musk deer. It is considered to be rare in China. Perhaps through taxonomic uncertainties, it is on the China Red List as Not Evaluated, and the China Key List - II. The high value of the parts in trade mean that conservation requires effective hand-on anti-poaching activity. It occurs in a number of protected areas.

Citation: Timmins, R.J. & Duckworth, J.W. 2008. Moschus leucogaster. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 20 October 2014.
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