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Muntiacus feae 

Scope: Global
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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Cetartiodactyla Cervidae

Scientific Name: Muntiacus feae
Species Authority: (Thomas & Doria, 1889)
Common Name(s):
English Fea's Muntjac
Synonym(s):
Cervulus feae Thomas & Doria, 1889
Muntiacus feai Tortonese in Grubb, 1977
Taxonomic Notes: Like other muntjac taxa, there is some taxonomic uncertainty about this species. No recent reviewer (e.g. Ma et al. 1986, Grubb 1977, Groves and Grubb 1990) appears to have examined the holotype; even Grubb (1977) had only photographs of the skull on which to work (P. Grubb pers. comm. to R.J. Timmins, 1997). However, with the recent discovery of several muntjac species in nearby parts of southeast Asia, re-examination of the M. feae holotype is needed, to clarify the species' diagnostic characters, and to verify that captive animals in various Thai collections (including the Dusit Zoo) and a few specimens in the Natural History Museum, London (particularly # 24.1.6.2) truly are M. feae (Grubb 1977, Groves and Grubb 1990).

Groves and Grubb (1990) included, within M. feae, two taxa now known to be different species: M. rooseveltorum and M. gongshanensis. M. feae has also been claimed for eastern Tibet (Xizang autonomous region) and southwestern China (Yunnan Province) (Zhang et al. 1984, Sokolov 1957, Ma et al. 1986). Groves and Grubb (1990) grouped various specimens from this area and northern Myanmar with M. feae, in part pending description of a new taxon that was in progress. Ma et al. (1990) described this new taxon, M. gongshanensis, to which some of the past claims of M. feae can probably be attributed (e.g. material in the NHM, London and the FMNH, Chicago, USA). Although several records refer to M. gongshanensis, some literature records (e.g. Zhang et al. 1984; Sokolov 1957) are best treated as unidentifiable Muntiacus sp. because diagnostic details, based on the current understanding of muntjac systematics, are not available. M. feae is still routinely included in the mammalian fauna of China, often without mention of M. gongshanensis (e.g. Sheng and Lu 1990, Zhang 1997, Sheng 1998, Sheng et al. 1999, Wang 2003). The Kunming Institute of Zoology holds several specimens from China labelled as M. feae (W.G. Robichaud in litt.. 1997 to R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008). Huang et al. (2006) provided data on the karyotype of 'M. feae' but gave the source of the tissues analysed only as fibroblast cell lines of a male M. feae (KCB 91006) that came from the Kunming Cell Bank. If such a cell line was established from a wild-caught animal in China, then it gives considerable support to the presence of M. feae (or a very similar taxon) in southern China, given the apparent similarity of the Huang et al. (2006) karyotype with that of the M. feae karyotype published by Soma et al. (1987) and Tanomtong et al. (2005), which was based on animals from Thailand. However for the purposes of this assessment, the purported distribution in China is considered hypothetical.

Tortonese (in Grubb 1977) proposed that the correct spelling of the specific name should be M. feai and not M. feae. However, this is not so (Brandon-Jones et al. 2007, Dubois 2007): the correct original spelling of feae should be used, as it was by Corbet and Hill (1992) and Grubb (2005).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Data Deficient ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2015-11-17
Assessor(s): Timmins, R., Steinmetz, R. & Chutipong, W.
Reviewer(s): Brook, S.M. & McShea, W.J.
Contributor(s): Pattanavibool, A. & Duckworth, J.W.
Justification:
The species is listed as Data Deficient due to uncertainties over the validity of many reports of the species, and thus uncertainty over its geographic and ecological range and conservation status. If the species has a predominantly montane distribution between the Isthmus of Kra and ca. 16°N, then it might only be Least Concern or Near Threatened (this latter would be based primarily on range criteria), due to stability of habitat in protected areas and a relatively low hunting intensity in Thailand, especially at higher elevations. However, if it has a much wider distribution in Myanmar and or has a distribution significantly down to lower elevations, the species could be in one of the threatened categories by hunting and habitat loss especially in Myanmar. The high uncertainty over the species’ status even in the minimum conservative range of the species in Myanmar further clouds the assessment. If the species occurs (or occurred) in lowland forests in Myanmar, then it would almost certainly qualify as threatened, due to the loss of forest to plantations and high hunting pressure.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Although the distribution of this species is usually given as from the Isthmus of Kra north and east through southern Myanmar and the adjacent Thai borderlands (Groves and Grubb 1990, Grubb 2005), there was until recently scant evidence of clearly identifiable records (i.e. those accompanied by information on diagnostic characters) from either country (i.e. some range localities appear to be based solely on reports from local people, Tun Yin 1967). Recent discoveries of new species of muntjac and extensions of known range for other muntjac species mean that some previous Thai and Myanmar localities for ‘M. feae’ (see Groves and Grubb 1990) should be viewed with caution. The presence in China remains unconfirmed (see taxonomic note). This leaves only the type locality of east of Moulmein, Myanmar, Muang district (9.08°N, 99.14°E), Surathani Province, and Raheng, Pangna Province (northeast of Phuket island), based on the origin of Thai captive animals and a Gairdner specimen in the Natural History Museum (NHM), London. Two other Gairdner specimens in the NHM, London are incomplete lacking skulls and heads (one of these was reportedly obtained at 300 m asl) and therefore cannot morphologically be confirmed as being this species (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008).

Photographs of several muntjacs from Kaeng Krachan National Park (Thailand) appear to be of this species (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008, based on Dusit Ngoprasert/WCS unpublished data). Camera-trapping in the western forest complex of Thailand has apparently documented the species on several further occasions, and animals have also been observed in the field (Wanlop Chutipong pers. comm. 2014, Anak Pattanavibool pers. comm. 2008, R. Steinmetz pers. comm. 2008), but identification of these animals could be considered provisional because it has been assumed that only two muntjac species inhabit this part of Thailand (M. feae and M. vaginalis), this might not be the case. Animals have usually been identified on the basis of dark pelage and especially the blackish tail (Anak Pattanavibool pers. comm. 2008, R. Steinmetz pers. comm. 2008), but such characters do not rule out some other muntjac species confirmed from neighbouring areas, including, M. gongshanensis and some animals in the, M. rooseveltorum species complex. Dark pelage does not even completely rule out M. vaginalis (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008). The most northerly of the recent records assigned to this species is from Mae Wong National Park in montane forest at 1,450 m asl (16° 4' 46'' N, 99° 7' 4'' E) (Anak Pattanavibool pers. comm. 2008).

One photograph from 1,250 m asl in Hponkanrazi Wildlife Sanctuary in northern Myanmar shows a male with some features similar to M. feae (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008, based on WCS unpublished data), and may refer to this species, particularly in the light of suggestions that the species is in China (see taxonomic note). This site lies far from the generally accepted Myanmar range of M. feae and raises the possibility that the species might have a much wider range in Myanmar than generally assumed. This record is not included in the distribution map (which should be considered highly provisional in any case). This record would also indicate sympatry with M. gongshanensis.
Countries occurrence:
Native:
Myanmar; Thailand
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Taking Thai records assigned to M. feae as truly representing the species, it is not infrequently camera-trapped and observed in evergreen forests of the mountains in Western Thailand, especially the Klong Saeng forest complex, Thung Yai Wildlife Sanctuary and Kuiburi National Park, and at least in the latter two areas, in evergreen forest, appears as or more common than Northern Red Muntjac (Anak Pattanavibool pers. comm. 2008, R. Steinmetz pers. comm. 2008, Wanlop Chutipong pers. comm. 2014, but see note under Distribution about provisional status of such records).

Other than one possible camera-trap photograph from northern Myanmar (see Geographic Range above), no primary sources have been traced for recent status in Myanmar. It is solely assumed that the species would have been relatively widespread in the climatically wetter forest of Tenasserim (than the drier more westerly Thai forests) in a latitudinal range similar to that in Thailand. But it is thought that the forests of Tenasserim are much more heavily poached than adjacent Thai forests (R. Steinmetz pers. comm. 2014).
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:The limited information available suggests that the species is tied to evergreen forests of the hills and mountains of western Thailand and adjacent Myanmar (and perhaps further afield). The elevational range of the species is uncertain. In Myanmar evergreen forests are found down to the lowlands because of a relatively wet climate throughout the year, but on the more seasonal eastern Thai side lower elevations are predominantly clothed in drier often deciduous forest types. Its ecology appears to be similar to other muntjacs and it seems to share some of the widespread socio-ecological traits of other muntjacs, i.e. it is predominantly solitary and favours fruits and leaves in its diet (Lekagul and McNeely 1977).

Towards the centre of their known Thai range, in Kuiburi National Park, Fea’s appears to be relatively common in evergreen forest, being camera-trapped more frequently than Northern Red Muntjac even at elevations of 300 m asl. In open forest types, however, Northern Red Muntjac clearly dominates, and Fea’s doesn’t appear to use deciduous forest types much (if at all), for example in Kuiburi National Park it comes right to the edge of open habitat but doesn’t cross the line out of evergreen forest. In contrast, northern red muntjac overlaps with Fea’s in evergreen forest, including high elevation, although Fea’s may be the more common in montane evergreen forest above 1000 m asl (R. Steinmetz pers. comm. 2008, but see note under Distribution about provisional status of such records). Further north in Thung Yai Wildlife Sanctuary the species appears to be commoner (based on cameras, sightings and interviews) than Northern Red Muntjac in forest habitats up to at least 1,000 m asl (there has been little survey work at higher altitudes), although sign abundance of muntjac species certainly declines with increasing altitude, especially above 1,000 m asl (Steinmetz et al. 2008, Wanlop Chutipong pers. comm. 2014, R. Steinmetz pers. comm. 2008). In contrast within Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, which lies at a similar latitude to Thung Yai Wildlife Sanctuary, but further east, Fea’s Muntjac is rare even in montane evergreen forest. This may be due to a rain shadow effect which leaves forest in the east drier than forests in Myanmar or close to the border in westernmost Thailand (R. Steinmetz pers. comm. 2008). The animals camera-trapped in Kaeng Krachan National Park probably use both semi-evergreen forest and a narrow band of secondary mixed deciduous forest at elevations of around 350 m and above (Dusit Ngoprasert pers. comm. 2014).
Systems:Terrestrial

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: It could be assumed that this species is hunted by the local human populations, in a similar fashion to other species of the same genus, as a source of meat and perhaps to a lesser degree of skins and traditional medicines.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The species may be threatened at some level by a decrease in available habitat and by hunting. Most remaining habitat for the species in its presumed Thai range is now effectively protected and many of the surviving forest blocks are large, in particular the Western Forest Complex. Therefore it seems unlikely that the species is in serious threat from either factor at the present there (but note the uncertainty over range and the identification of many records) (Anak Pattanavibool pers. comm. 2008, R. Steinmetz pers. comm. 2008). The apparent commonness of Fea’s Muntjac at low elevations in Kuiburi National Park, where hunting of this and Northern Red Muntjac occurs, suggests a similar degree of tolerance to hunting pressure as the later species, hunting was thought to have been relatively heavy in the past, enough to have significantly reduced all ungulate populations, although the initiation of protection measures appears to have turned the tide (R. Steinmetz pers. comm. 2008, 2014). The species' use of lower elevations is imprecisely known, and may be related to climatic factors, thus if the species naturally occurred at relatively high densities in ‘wet’ lower forests, then the threat level faced by the species would be undoubtedly higher. Thus, even within the Western Forest Complex the ‘available habitat’ for Fea’s Muntjac would be concentrated at higher elevation, and in Thailand’s protected areas as a whole, land below ca. 400 m and areas of gentle terrain at higher elevations forms only a moderate fraction, ca. 30% of the total area (Chutipong et al. 2014, Wanlop Chutipong pers. comm. 2014).

The Thanintharyi (= Tensasserim) region of Myanmar is currently relatively intact, but the ongoing and projected conversion of forests to oil palm plantation in southern Myanmar (Leimgruber et al. 2005) is some level of threat. Such conversion could destroy all large blocks of forest in the lowlands and adjacent lower hills, which includes some of the elevation range of the species. Forest and thus deer at higher elevations would probably remain secure. Altitudinal distribution of the species is too little understood to allow adequate assessment of this threat.

It is thought that the forests of Tenasserim are much more heavily poached than adjacent Thai forests, and for instance poachers from Myanmar regularly cross the border into Kuiburi National Park, despite the fact that ungulate densities in Kuiburi National Park are already relatively low, thus suggesting that hunting intensity is much higher and ungulate densities now much lower in Myanmar (R. Steinmetz pers. comm. 2014). Hunting levels in the known Myanmar range can be assumed to be high (Than Thaw pers. comm. 2006).

In the Taninthayi Nature Reserve (1,700 kmsq), in the northern Thanithayi Range, wildlife protection is limited despite the presence of park staff, and local professional hunters come in to the Nature Reserve to hunt a wide variety of species including muntjac. Local people adjacent to the area also use snares in the vicinity of their agricultural areas, and some also use home-made guns. Around 2005 a gas pipeline was constructed across the southern part of Taninthayi Nature Reserve. The pipeline, with a service track alongside it, is guarded by the army who have camps along it. The military personnel mainly rely on wildlife for their daily ration. The area affected is perhaps 15% of the Nature Reserve. Logging is also occurring, although on a small scale. In the southern Taninthayi range the situation is worse, largely because of the presence of many immigrant workers from central Myanmar, who have come to the area to work for oil palm and rubber plantations. These workers both set snares themselves and have also taught local communities these same snaring techniques. Hunting is much more openly practiced and is probably at least twice as worse as in the northern part of the range. The government is also still issuing licences to private timber companies for forest conversion to plantations, and already huge areas of land in the lowlands have been cleared to make way for oil palm and rubber plantations. There are two proposed protected areas in southern Taninthayi Range and one proposed protected area in the northern Taninthayi Range, none of which have any permanent staff (all Nay Myo Shwe pers. comm. 2014).

In northern Myanmar (not confirmed to be within the species' range), muntjacs are commonly hunted, particularly for pelts (Than Thaw pers. comm. 2006). In Thailand, Fea’s Muntjac is apparently not specifically targeted by hunters, perhaps because of scarcity relative to M. vaginalis in many of the areas supporting most of the hunting, and in several especially eastern areas its primary range in higher elevations which are not visited frequently by hunters (Anak Pattanavibool pers. comm. 2008).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The species is presumed to be found within protected areas throughout its range; in Thailand, it is largely confined to protected areas (because most suitable habitat is now within protected areas), but it almost certainly will be found to persist both in and out of them in Myanmar.

There is a need for taxonomic work, including a re-evaluation of recent field and captive animals (there is a small captive population within Thai zoos) presumed to be M. feae with reference to the holotype, to determine that such animals are indeed this species. Diagnostic characters for the species also need to be clarified in light of recent discoveries of other muntjacs superficially similar in various morphological characteristics. Confirmation in particular is needed of camera trap records from Thailand and Myanmar as referring to this species rather than to any other darkish muntjac, and suggestions of the species' occurrence in China and far northern Myanmar need to be investigated (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2006). The species' status, habitat associations, and elevational limits need to be established with greater certainty (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2006).

Citation: Timmins, R., Steinmetz, R. & Chutipong, W. 2016. Muntiacus feae. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T13927A22160266. . Downloaded on 29 September 2016.
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