Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Cetartiodactyla Bovidae

Scientific Name: Capricornis swinhoei
Species Authority: Gray, 1862
Common Name(s):
English Formosan Serow, Taiwan Serow
Taxonomic Notes: There has been disagreement in the current taxonomy of Naemorhedus and Capricornis (Groves and Grubb 1985, Soma et al. 1987, Groves and Shields 1996) and is in need of revision. Recent genetic evidences have supported that Capricornis swinhoei is a distinct species from Capricornis crispus (Chang 2002, Min et al. 2004).

Taxonomy of serows is not completely resolved; descriptions, range maps, and assessments of conservation status in the literature vary because sources differ on nomenclature and specific/subspecific status of the various taxa. Here, we follow the taxonomy of Wilson and Reeder, 3rd edition (2005). Thus, we recognize six species of Capricornis:

C. crispus (Japanese Serow, restricted to Japan)
C. milneedwardsii (Chinese Serow, but also occurring in southeast Asian countries)
C. rubidus (Red Serow, restricted to Myanmar)
C. sumatraensis (Sumatran Serow, in Indonesia, Malaysia and southern Thailand)
C. swinhoei (Formosan Serow, restricted to Taiwan, Province of China)
C. thar (Himalayan Serow, along the Himalayan range)

The genus Naemorhedus is recognized as referring to gorals. Note that this taxonomy differs from that of Wilson and Reeder, 2nd edition (1993), that of the 2007 IUCN Red List (IUCN 2007), as well as that adopted by the IUCN Caprinae Specialist Group (Shackleton 1997). Additionally, most Chinese sources consider serows in China as being N. sumatraensis (e.g., Wang 1998, Wang 2002).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Chiang, P.J. & Pei, K.J-C.
Reviewer(s): Harris, R. & Festa-Bianchet, M. (Caprinae Red List Authority)
Listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, presumed large population, and because it is unlikely to be declining fast enough to qualify for listing in a more threatened category.
Previously published Red List assessments:
1996 Vulnerable (VU)
1994 Vulnerable (V)
1990 Vulnerable (V)
1988 Vulnerable (V)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The Formosan serow is endemic to Taiwan and is widely distributed in the mountainous regions throughout the island (McCullough 1974, Lue 1987, Pei 1992, Pei and Chiang 2004). It occupies elevations from 50 m to greater than 3,900 m just below the peak of Yu-shan, the highest mountain in the country. However, most populations today occupies regions higher than 1,000 m because most lowlands are encroached upon by human.
Countries occurrence:
Taiwan, Province of China
Lower elevation limit (metres): 50
Upper elevation limit (metres): 3900
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: There is no estimate of total population size. Surveys showed that the Formosan serow is still widely distributed throughout the island, from the north to the south (McCullough 1974, Lue 1987, Pei and Chiang 2004). However, since World War II, logging and agriculture have encroached upon the virgin forests inhabited by serow, resulting in significant habitat loss. In addition, heavy hunting pressure over the past decades may have caused the population to decline (McCullough 1974). An average density of 22 serows/km² was estimated in part of high altitudes of Yu-shan National Park (K. Y. Lue, unpublished data). Casual observations by park rangers, hikers and wildlife researchers suggest that serow populations may be increasing in recent years. This may due to reduced hunting activities for game meat market in the city because of tighter law enforcement. However, this impression might be confounded because more people are now involved in outdoor activities. More sightings of serow may lead to a biased impression of increasing populations. Population trends need further research.
Current Population Trend: Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented: No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Formosan serow live in various mountainous habitats, from lowland tropical and subtropical rainforests, mixed broadleaf-conifer forests and warm temperate rainforests at mid-altitudes, to coniferous forests, alpine meadow, and tundra at the highest altitude range of 3,000 m~3,952 m (McCullough 1974, Lue 1987, Pei and Chiang 2004, Chiang 2007). They are adapted to steep and rugged terrain and may use the steep and craggy rock faces and cliffs to avoid predators. In forests lower than 3,000 m as in southern Taiwan, Formosan serow occurs more frequently at lower altitudes, at areas close to ridges and cliffs, and in steep, rugged or rocky terrain (Chiang 2007). At altitudes higher than 3,000 m, Formosan serow also occur in alpine grasslands dominated by Yushania niitakaymensis, in forests with Juniperus formosana, Juniperus squamata, Tsuga chinensis, and Abies kawakamii, and on cliff-tops (personal observations and Lue 1987). Populations can be high at high altitudes, particularly in remote areas or where there are cliffs.

The Formosan serow is intermediate feeder between selective browser and roughage eater (Hofmann 1985) with a tendency of being a selective browser (Hofmann 1985, Ochiai 1999). Formosan serow feeds on grasses, shrubs, browse, young twigs, some fruits, and even juvenile parts of conifers (McCullough 1974, Lue 1987). Based on information from aborigines, Lue (1987) stated that preferred food plants include, but are not limited to, Urtica fissa, Elatostema edule, Anisogonium esculentum, Begonia laciniata, Polygonum chinensis, Chamabainia cuspidate, Mussaenda parviflora, Perrottetia arisanensis, and Pellionia arisanensis. Analysis of relationships between forest structures and occurrence frequencies suggested that they may prefer disturbed and early-succession forests with gaps (Chiang 2007) where they could find grass and shrubs to browse (personal observations and McCullough 1974, Lue 1987).

Virtually nothing is known of its social organization. Captive animals mark objects with their infra-orbital glands and have localized dung sites; both behaviours are suggestive of territoriality (Chen 1987). Its reproduction is known almost exclusively from a limited number of captive animals (Wang and Chen 1981, Chen 1987). There is a single young born after seven months gestation (Smith and Xie 2008). Female Formosan serow are likely to be pregnant during September and November and give birth after March based on captive and hunters’ observations (Chen 1990). Formosan serow is mostly solitary (personal observation and Chen 1990), although captive groups with up to eight animals have been maintained (Chen 1987). Young Formosan serows were observed to follow their mothers with occasional hiding behaviour suggesting a follower type (Chen 1990). In the wild, young serows had also been photographed by camera traps to follow their parents in spring and fall (Pei and Chiang 2004).

Camera trapping data in remote areas with least human activities showed that Formosan serow is active day and night with significantly more diurnal activities (74% vs. 26%, Pei and Chiang 2004). It is most active during the 3 hours after sunrise and during the 4 hours before sunset (but lower activity levels than in the morning) and seasonal variations of activity levels were more pronounced in the afternoon (Pei and Chiang 2004). However, Formosan serow could become more nocturnal in areas close to human activities (Liu 2003).

Habitat segregation was found between Formosan serow, sambar deer (Cervus unicolor swinhoei) and Reeve’s muntjac (Muntiacus reevesi micrurus) (Chiang 2007). There may be competition in the wild with the sympatric sambar deer and Reeve’s muntjac, though the effects of these interactions require further research.
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): In the past, wildlife was a source of food for the local indigenous people in Taiwan. Because of the growth in the livestock industry over the past 40 years in Taiwan, food from wildlife is becoming less and less important and hunting serow is now banned throughout Taiwan. However, wild meat is still preferred over livestock meat in certain situations such as ceremonies or gifts. Better economic conditions may also increase the demand for wild meat. Wild meat is still taken through illegal hunting and hunting activity seems to have increased in recent years, partially because the immigration of foreign workers into Taiwan have caused unemployment among the indigenous people, who have returned to their villages and now practice hunting for a living. Nevertheless, current hunting pressure still seems lower compared to several decades ago. It is unknown whether current hunting pressure has a significant adverse effects on serow populations. In addition, forestry, agricultural, road construction activities in the mountainous regions have encroached upon the virgin forests originally inhabited by serow. The latest threat to serow comes from increasing recreational and tourist pressures, but the impact is unknown. Mortality related to skin parasites have also been reported (Pei and Chiang 2004, Tsai 2005) and confirmed (Chen and Pei 2007) and could be a potential threat to the serow populations in Taiwan.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Since 1989, the Formosan serow has been listed as a “Precious and Rare species” under Taiwan’s Wildlife Protection Act, and hunting the species is prohibited. Serow is protected in National Parks and in Nature Reserves. Recently, through the development of environmental-protection awareness and enforcement of related wildlife protection laws, conditions for serow have improved. Conservation measures proposed include: 1) conduct in-depth studies of their population biology and ecology, as well as the impact of the disease and parasites; 2) develop a community-based management and monitoring programme with aboriginal tribes.

Citation: Chiang, P.J. & Pei, K.J-C. 2008. Capricornis swinhoei. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T3810A10096148. . Downloaded on 04 October 2015.
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