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Muntiacus feae

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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 taxonomy 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: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Timmins, R.J., Steinmetz, R., Pattanavibool, A. & Duckworth, J.W.
Reviewer(s): Black, P.A. & Gonzalez, S. (Deer Red List Authority)
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. However, if it has a much wider distribution 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.
History:
1996 Data Deficient

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 (Anak Pattanavibool pers. comm. to R.J. Timmins 2008; R. Steinmetz pers. comm. to R.J. Timmins 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. to R.J. Timmins 2008; R. Steinmetz pers. comm. to R.J. Timmins 2008), but such characters do not rule out some other muntjac species confirmed from neighbouring areas, including ,i>M. gongshanensis and some animals in the ,i>M. rooseveltorum species complex (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. to R.J. Timmins 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:
Native:
Myanmar; Thailand
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. to R.J. Timmins 2008; R. Steinmetz pers. comm. to R.J. Timmins 2008; but see note under Distribution about provisional status of such records).
Population Trend: Unknown

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. 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 NP they come right to edge of open habitat but don’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. to R.J. Timmins 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 (R. Steinmetz pers. comm. to R.J. Timmins 2008). In contrast within Huai Kha Khaeng WS which lies at a similar latitude to Thung Yai WS, 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. to R.J. Timmins 2008).
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. 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. to R.J. Timmins 2008; R. Steinmetz pers. comm. to R.J. Timmins 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 (R. Steinmetz pers. comm. to R.J. Timmins 2008).

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 adequately assessment of this threat.

In northern Myanmar (not confirmed to be within the species' range), muntjacs are commonly hunted, particularly for pelts (Than Thaw pers. comm. 2006); hunting levels in the known Myanmar range can also be assumed to be high. In Thailand, Feas’ 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 its primary range in higher elevations which are not visited frequently by hunters (Anak Pattanavibool pers. comm. to R.J. Timmins 2008).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The species is reasonably well protected within its presumed breeding season in Myanmar (Than Zaw pers. comm. 2006). 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 (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2006).

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Citation: Timmins, R.J., Steinmetz, R., Pattanavibool, A. & Duckworth, J.W. 2008. Muntiacus feae. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 30 July 2014.
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