Muntiacus crinifrons 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Cetartiodactyla Cervidae

Scientific Name: Muntiacus crinifrons (Sclater, 1885)
Common Name(s):
English Black Muntjac, Hairy-fronted Muntjac
French Muntjac noir
Spanish Muntjac Negro
Cervulus crinifrons Sclater, 1885
Taxonomic Notes: Currently, the name Muntiacus crinifrons is only applicable to populations from eastern China (Groves and Grubb 1990).

Recent reports of M. crinifrons in northern Myanmar and adjacent parts of China, which lies far from its generally accepted range (see below), potentially result from confusion with M. gongshanensis Ma et al. 1990, described from the Gaoligongshan. They stem largely from a decision, based upon a similarity of analysed portions of mtDNA, to consider M. gongshanensis to be indistinguishable from, and therefore a junior synonym of, M. crinifrons, rather than any evidence that M. crinifrons, and specifically not M. gongshanensis, is in these areas. The first report was from northern Myanmar (Rabinowitz et al. 1998; Amato et al. 1999, 2000), which led to this claim that M. gongshanensis is indistinguishable from M. crinifrons. But to thereby consider the two as synonymous ignores the cautions and dangers of relying solely upon mtDNA to determine species phylogenies and identifications (Ballard and Whitlock 2004). Specifically, no consideration was given to possibilities that non-conspecific populations might possess very similar, perhaps identical, mtDNA, although there are several reasons why they sometimes do so (Ballard and Whitlock 2004). There are subsequent reports of muntjacs under the name 'M. crinifrons' from areas of China adjacent to northern Myanmar and some way to the west (Schaller and Rabinowitz 2004, Chen et al. 2007) and adjacent areas of India (Datta 2003, Johnsingh 2004, Mukherjee 2013, Menon 2014). The identification in Chen et al. (2007) was based explicitly solely on mtDNA and M. gongshanensis may not have been considered (the name M. gongshanensis was associated with the name ‘Roosevelt’s Muntjak’ [sic], for which the code ‘Mgon’ was used; yet no result was given anywhere for ‘Mgon’, nor is either species discussed); Schaller and Rabinowitz (2004) took M. gongshanensis as a synonym of M. crinifrons. Therefore, none of these identifications can be taken as clearly indicative of M. crinifrons, if M. gongshanensis is considered a distinct species (as it is here; see also the M. gongshanensis Red List account).

M. gongshanensis and M. crinifrons were maintained as distinct by Grubb (2005): the two differ substantially in morphological characters (Ma et al. 1990, Groves and Grubb 1990, R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008), reportedly also in karyotype (Huang et al. 2006) and even in mtDNA (Lan et al. 1995, Wang and Lan 2000).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2cd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2015-11-12
Assessor(s): Timmins, R. & Chan, B.
Reviewer(s): Brook, S.M. & McShea, W.J.
Contributor(s): Harris, R.B., Dinets, V., Yang, J. & Cheng, S.
The species has been listed as Vulnerable since 1990 (24 years), with very little supporting documentation for this listing being given in recent years. Information received since 2008 is insufficient to suggest a certain change in status. In 2008 the justification was given as a probable serious population decline, estimated to be more than 30% over the last three generations (approximately 18 years), inferred from over-exploitation, shrinkage in distribution, and habitat destruction and degradation. Although there was no direct data available regarding recent declining population rates, the above-mentioned rate of decline seemed reasonable based on the high levels of harvesting and habitat loss. It should also be noted that: the last population assessment accounted for only 7,000 to 8,500 individuals living in the wild, in eastern China (Sheng 1998), though the basis for these numbers is not clear; the distribution range of the species is rather limited, and the species appears slow to colonize new areas (Ohtaishi and Gao 1990, Wu et al. 2007); threats, to the survival of the species, are in all likelihood still present (Ohtaishi and Gao 1990, Wu et al. 2007).

The 2008 assessment considered the generation length to be approximately six years and thus the assessment window approximately 18 years. The main justification for Vulnerable seems to be based on observations of Ohtaishi and Gao (1990), Sheng and Ohtaishi (1993) and Sheng (1998), which are outside or nearly outside of the c. 18 year assessment window.

However, the species is now likely to be predominantly restricted to protected areas, in several of which it appears to be relatively common (see Population below). Whilst hunting rates in eastern China in general appear to be relatively moderate, and in some protected areas potentially very low.

Here we assume that the situation remains similar to that in 2008, there is no information that suggests the situation has worsened, but a thorough re-evaluation of the species’ status is required, specifically assessment of the rate of habitat loss during the assessment window, and determination of the scale of muntjac population decline and hunting intensity.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species is now restricted to eastern China (in southeastern Anhui, northern Fujian, northeastern Jiangxi, and western Zhejiang (Ohtaishi and Gao 1990, Wu et al. 2007), with a few outlying records from eastern Zhejiang. Its range formerly extended from the coastal region of Ningbo at the mouth of the Yangtze River, westward to Guangdong province (Ohtaishi and Gao 1990). The species is specifically known from Gutianshan (Bao et al. 2006; Zheng et al. 2006, 2007; Cheng et al. 2008b; Zhang et al. 2010) and Jiulongshan (Bao et al. 2006; Zheng et al. 2006, 2007; Cheng et al. 2008b; Chen et al. 2010; Wang et al. 2012) Nature Reserves, Tianmushan National Nature Reserve (Xu et al. 2013, Wu et al. 2006, 2007), Kaihua (Cheng et al. 2008a), Suichang (Wu et al. 2006, 2007; Bao et al. 2008), Songyang and Longquan (Bao et al. 2008), Lin’an (Wu and Fang 2005): Zhejiang Province; Xiuning, Yixian and Quimen (Cheng et al. 2008a), Huangshan (Wu and Fang 2005; Wu et al. 2006, 2007): Anhui Province; Wuyishan National Natural Reserve (Cheng et al. 2012, 2013), Maoyuan (Wu and Fang 2005), Tongbashan NR, Huanggangshan NR, and Yangjifeng NR (Jianhuan Yang pers. comm. 2014): Jiangxi Province. The species is also reportedly present in Fujian Province (Cheng et al. 2008a). V. Dinets in litt. (2014) probably observed the species at Fushan in Zheijang Province in 1993, but there is probably no longer any suitable habitat left at the site.
Records from India, Yunnan and Myanmar may refer to Muntiacus gongshanensis, melanistic M. muntjak, an undescribed species, or perhaps even M. crinifrons; current published and even unpublished data available to the authors is insufficient to clearly tell between these various possibilities.

Animals are restricted to altitudes of 200-1,000 m asl.
Countries occurrence:
Additional data:
Lower elevation limit (metres):200
Upper elevation limit (metres):1000
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:This species is currently considered endemic to southeastern China, and is now restricted to several mountain ranges, largely as a result of extensive deforestation, fragmentation and degradation of natural habitats at lower elevations in combination with associated hunting pressure.

In 1989 the total Chinese population was estimated around 5,000-6,000 individuals by Ohtaishi and Gao (1990); Sheng (1998) estimated the population to number approximately 7,000 to 8,500. However, the basis for these population estimates is not known. Hunting and habitat destruction have negatively affected its geographic distribution and abundance (Sheng 1998). A possible decrease in numbers during the late eighties was inferred by Ohtaishi and Gao (1990). The species is believed to be in decline because of hunting and habitat loss.

In at least two protected areas Gutianshan and Jiulongshan Nature Reserves the species appears numerous enough to support ecological (Zheng et al. 2006, 2007; Chen et al. 2010; Zhang et al. 2010) and population genetic studies (Cheng et al. 2008b, Wang et al. 2012) based on field signs and camera-trapping (Zhang et al. 2010). Furthermore for both these protected areas Bao et al. (2006) appear not to mention hunting as a threat, suggesting that habitat loss and degradation is the main cause of population decline and that there is a “big threat from human activities, especially tourism development”. The results of Cheng et al. (2008b) imply that the species still persists in small ‘isolated’ habitat fragments on the edge of both these nature reserves; if hunting were a serious issue in these reserves it is hard to understand persistence in isolated fragments.

Elsewhere, in Wuyishan National Nature Reserve the species appears to be detected by sight not uncommonly (Cheng et al. 2012); in five days V. Dinets in litt. (2014) saw and videoed a single M. crinifrons and observed no evidence of hunting; in two days ‘birding’ a single was seen ( trip report 2013 “SE China and Tibet (Qinghai)”). In Wuyishan NNR the species was first detected in 2010 and appears to be distributed in three main areas, Huanggangshan, Dushujian and Qixingshan, all at relatively high elevations (Cheng et al. 2012, 2013; Songlin Cheng pers. comm. 2014).

If the population estimates of Ohtaishi and Gao (1990) and Sheng (1998) were accurate and the species is still present and obviously numerous in several protected areas at present, then it seems unlikely that the species has undergone a decline equivalent to Vulnerable; so either the population estimates were relatively inaccurate, the population has not declined substantially, or perhaps there has been subsequent population recovery in some areas.

Among the three main distribution centers of this species in eastern China there has developed a degree of genetic differentiation that Wu et al. (2006) attributed to the reduction of female-mediated gene flow stemming from habitat fragmentation. Although Wu et al. (2007) found a comfortingly large degree of nuclear genetic diversity; they nevertheless confirmed the earlier conclusions of Wu et al. (2005, 2006) based on mtDNA that the species had been fragmented into subpopulations. Given that the mountain ranges to which the species is now restricted have been ecologically isolated by agriculture and other anthropogenic land uses probably for decades, the genetic results are not at all surprising.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:This species occurs mostly in heavily forested mountain areas, with abundant undergrowth (Ohtaishi and Gao 1990), as well as mixed forest and scrub (Sheng Helin and Zhang Endi, East China Normal University pers. comm. to R. B. Harris). In Wuyishan NNR the species was detected from elevations above 1,000 m (Songlin Cheng pers. comm. 2014). The species appears to be a generalist browser/frugivore, its diet includes a wide variety of tree leaves and twigs, forbs, grasses, and fruits (Harris 2008). Zheng et al. (2006) found that most sign of M. crinifrons in a study area in Suichang county, Zhejiang province was found in mixed forests, although conifer forests increased in importance during winter. M. crinifrons seemed to prefer relatively high tree canopy cover in relatively high elevation (> 800 m) zones with little human disturbance. They apparently display rather limited dispersal capability (Wu et al. 2005, 2006, 2007).

The reproductive cycle is aseasonal, and some females conceive new litters while still lactating (Harris 2008). Young are born throughout the year (Harris 2008). Gestation is 210 days, and mothers give birth to single fawns (Harris 2008). Sexual maturity is reached at one year (Sheng and Ohtaishi 1993).
Generation Length (years):6

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: For information on use and trade, see under Threats.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The 2008 assessment (Harris 2008) considered that the species was declining due to deforestation, expanding agriculture, hunting, and other human disturbances, however very little justification was provided. The species is hunted for venison and skin (Harris 2008). Ohtaishi and Gao (1990) reported that 500 animals were being killed annually for skins which were sold to local markets during the 1980s. Sheng (1998) reported that yearly harvest may have exceeded this figure.

Although there is chronic poaching throughout China, hunting pressure within M. crinifrons range is likely to be considerably lower than in the ‘tropical’ southwestern provinces. There is still hunting but local residents in general don’t go all out in hunting remnant wildlife, and in recent years following gun confiscation and a better economy, the more resilient species like small carnivores and muntjac are probably on the recovery in many areas (P. L. Chan pers. comm. 2014). Specifically on the basis of survey work in two sites in southern (unprotected; M. crinifrons possibly present; close to Huangshan) and northern  (protected; M. crinifrons absent) Anhui hunting occurs but does not seem to be a serious problem; contrasting markedly with fieldwork sites in southwesternmost China where hunting is so intense that extirpations of many species have occurred and densities of all large bodied mammals are extremely low (Lau et al. 2010, P. L. Chan pers. comm. 2014). There is also relatively little original habitat left in the Black Muntjac range and they appear to utilise secondary vegetation as long as hunting is controlled. Furthermore probably a majority of remaining occupied habitat now lies within protected areas, and probably an even higher proportion of the remaining Black Muntjac. Habitat loss may no longer be a significant threat, as in some remote hilly areas agricultural and other anthropogenic landuses are being abandoned and forest is recovering, whilst still in easily accessible low-lying areas remaining forested habitat patches are slowly being developed as towns expand (P.L. Chan pers. comm. 2014). But few deer are likely to persist in habitat patches at lower elevations.

Protected areas in Eastern China appear to be better managed than those in the southwest, (perhaps also helped by local communities that do not have a strong hunting culture), further suggesting that Black Muntjac maybe relatively secure in several areas. Hunting pressure within Tongbashan NR, Huanggangshan NR, and Yangjifeng NR is not very serious (Jianhuan YANG pers. comm. 2014). Published studies from Gutianshan and Jiulongshan Nature Reserves (see population above) also suggest that Black Muntjac is relatively secure within them. The population in Wuyishan National Nature Reserve is considered to be secure (Songlin Cheng pers. comm. 2014).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: M. crinifrons is listed on Appendix I of CITES. On the 2015 Chinese Red List this species is listed Endangered, and is protected by the 1988 Chinese National Wildlife Law under category I. It exists in a number of protected areas. Recommended conservation actions include initiation of research to determine status and threats throughout the species' range. Careful investigation is also needed to determine the basis for and validity of claims of M. crinifrons in Yunnan, Tibet, northern Myanmar and northeastern India. However the highest priority is to conserve the forest habitat of this species, and to bring poaching under strict control.

Citation: Timmins, R. & Chan, B. 2016. Muntiacus crinifrons. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T13924A22160753. . Downloaded on 25 September 2018.
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