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Rusa alfredi

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA MAMMALIA CETARTIODACTYLA CERVIDAE

Scientific Name: Rusa alfredi
Species Authority: Sclater, 1870
Common Name(s):
English Phillipine Spotted Deer, Visayan Spotted Deer
Synonym(s):
Cervus alfredi (Sclater, 1876)
Cervus alfredi (Sclater, 1870)
Taxonomic Notes: Long overlooked as an obscure and poorly known regional variant of the widely distributed sambar (Rusa unicolor), Rusa alfredi was not formally recognised as a separate, endemic and highly distinct species until 1983 (Grubb and Groves, 1993). Subsequent reviews of the systematic relationships and phylogeny of southeast Asian deer by Meijaard and Groves (2004) and Pitra et al. (2004) resulted in the transfer of this species from the genus Cervus to the genus Rusa.

The populations from Panay and Negros have not been studied for taxonomic differences, but they have been separated for thousands of years and are currently managed separately.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered C2a(i) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Oliver, W., MacKinnon, J., Heaney, L. & Lastica, E.
Reviewer(s): Black, P.A. & Gonzalez, S. (Deer Red List Authority)
Justification:
Listed as Endangered because its population size is estimated to number fewer than 2,500 mature individuals, there is an observed continuing decline in the number of mature individuals, and no subpopulation is likely to contain more than 250 mature individuals.
History:
1996 Endangered (Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
1996 Endangered
1994 Endangered (Groombridge 1994)
1990 Endangered (IUCN 1990)
1988 Endangered (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: This species is endemic to the Western Visayan Islands (or Negros-Panay Faunal Region) of the central Philippines. The species was previously found on Panay, Guimaras, Negros, Cebu, Masbate and probably Ticao Islands (Heaney et al. 1998; Grubb 2005; Oliver 1993a, 1996). Presently, the species is restricted to the Mount Madja - Mount Baloy area of west Panay and a few scattered remnants of forest on Negros (Cox 1987; Oliver et al. 1992). It was extirpated on Cebu in the mid-twentieth century. A few individuals were reported to survive on Masbate between 1991 and 1993, but the population there is almost certainly extinct or ‘functionally extinct’. It is not known whether R. alfredi or R. mariannus occurred formerly on Siquijor, where no deer now survive, but this species is replaced by R. mariannus on Bohol and all other larger Philippine Islands east of Huxley’s Line (i.e. excluding Palawan) (Grubb 2005; Oliver 1993a, 1996).
Countries:
Native:
Philippines
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The species is considered to be rare throughout its present, limited range. Populations are severely fragmented and declining, although the species is evidently able to utilise a wide variety of habitats. Currently, the species is estimated to have been extirpated from at 95% to 98% of its former range (Oliver et al., 1991; 1996). There is no global estimate of the population size, but it is reasonable to suppose that it is less than 2,500 mature individuals.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: The species formerly occurred from sea-level to at least 2,000 m asl in primary forest and second growth. It can persist in some degraded habitats such as cogon grasslands as long as there are areas of dense cover. The preferred habitat of this species is not clear, since it is now restricted to steep, rugged slopes of dipterocarp forest that are innaccessible to humans (Cox, 1987). It was known to rely on dense forest for refuge (Rabor, 1977), but also frequents open grassy patches and secondary communities. Rabor (1977) reports that the main constituents of their diet are young shoots of cogon grass (found in clearings) and young low-growing leaves and buds within forests. It is predominately a browser, but also a grazer (captive animals also relish fruit). They also visit burnt forest clearings for the mineral content of floral ash, as well as the pioneering shoots. All local reports indicate an average group size of one to three individuals - mostly solitary males and females with single young – though it remains unclear whether or not these small group sizes are a function of continued and sustained hunting pressure, particularly as much larger numbers of individuals have been maintained peacefully together in captivity for indefinite periods (W. Oliver, pers. obs.). The species breeds year round in captivity and young animals are reported to be captured in the wild at all times of the year.
Systems: Terrestrial

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: It is hunted for food (both local subsistence and national commercial) and trophies, and animals are sometimes taken as pets.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): This species has declined primarily as a result of habitat conversion (agriculture and logging) and hunting (Cox 1987; Oliver et al., 1991; Oliver 1992). Despite being fully protected by law, this species is still intensively hunted throughout its remaining range; both by local farmers in hinterland communities and recreational hunters from larger cities; both of which groups use the species as game (for meat and trophies), rather than for subsistence purposes (Cox, 1987; Evans et al., 1993; Oliver, 1994; Oliver et al., 1992). Both of these groups may also sell any surplus meat as venison in local markets or to speciality restaurants; whereas local hunters from upland communities also specialize in live-captures to meet strong demand for these animals as pets (particularly amongst local politicians). Many of these are supplied by the orphans of hunter-killed animals, though almost all such captive stocks also include animals captured as adults in leg snares, as evinced by the amputation of their lower limbs.

There is continuing severe habitat fragmentation and reduction of populations from illegal logging and agricultural expansion, and some populations are now so reduced in size as to be of doubtful viability. Hybridization with R. mariannus has been repeatedly observed amongst poorly (i.e. unscientifically) managed captive stocks of these two species, but (and despite previously published fears to the contrary) is most unlikely to pose any additional threats to the few surviving populations of R. alfredi given the evident allopatry in the natural ranges of these two species (Cox, 1987; Oliver et al., 1991; Oliver 1993a, 1996, unpubl.)

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species is fully protected under Philippine law, but effective enforcement is wanting in most in most areas. A number of new protected areas have been established within the range of the species, but management and enforcement likewise remains ineffective in most (perhaps all) such areas. Awareness levels have increased greatly; unfortunately, this has not yet lead to a change in behaviour in terms of hunting pressure. The species occurs in small populations in several protected areas: Mount Canlaon National Park (8,000 ha); North Negros Forest Reserve (c. 18,000 ha); Mount Talinis/Lake Balinsasayao Reserve (c. 11,000 ha); and the proposed West Panay Mountains National Park (c. 70,000 ha). However, the formal declaration of the latter area was eventually stymied by lack of unanimity amongst relevant local government units and a number of separate, smaller areas have since been declared, though these do not cover all of the most important sites, nor have any of these areas been significantly better protected since declaration owing the absence of any corresponding national budgetary allocations. Small numbers of individuals are also reported to survive in and Hinoba-an in southwestern Negros Oriental, though there is now very little forest remaining in this area.

The Philippine Spotted Deer Conservation Programme (PSDCP) was formally established in April in 1990 under the aupices of a new Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR, Government of the Philippines) and the Parc Zoologique et Botanique de la Ville Mulhouse (Mulhouse Zoo, France), to enable development of a properly structured conservation breeding programme (viz: the ‘World Herd’ of captive R. alfredi) based on the accession of donated and confiscated individuals, previously illegally held as pets by private owners, and to initiate a variety of other related, highest conservation priority activities. These included: development of three local wildlife rescue and breeding centres (two on Negros, one on Panay); wide-ranging field surveys and other field studies; assistance in the establishment of new protected areas and related habitat restoration measures; distribution-wide public awareness campaigns; and diverse personnel training and other local capacity-building initiatives. This programme has since constituted easily the most successful programme of its kind in the Philippine but, and more importantly, it was also established and managed as a ‘flagship’ species/programme for the ‘West Visayas (or ‘Negros-Panay’) Faunal Region’; one of the world’s highest conservation priority areas in terms of both numbers of threatened endemic taxa and degrees of threat. As such the PSCDP has also constituted the principal driving force behind a diverse range of related conservation activities principally focused on a number of other most threatened West Visayan endemic species and species’ groups. As of 31 December 2006, there were also nearly 200 individuals of Negros Island origin and over 50 individuals of Panay Island origin in the captive breeding programme, and efforts are currently to conduct the first species reintroduction projects in the Philippines, and to do this by means of enabling the development of additional protected areas and/or the far more effective protection and restoration of selected existing protected areas (W. Oliver, 1996; Oliver et al, 2003, 2007)

Recommended conservation actions include:

1.Enhance management and protection of existing protected areas, most of which effectively ‘unmanaged’ and ‘unprotected’ at present owing any national budgetary resource allocations for these areas. One means of doing this would be to faciliate development of co-management agreements between the relevant national and local government agencies; thereby both actively involving the latter and enabling the allocation of annual local (provincial and municipal) budgetary appropriations for these purposes.

2. Establishment of new ‘local conservation areas’ (in effect ‘municipal reserves’) via the Philippine ‘Local Government Code’, and/or private nature reserves; either or both of which avoid the cumbersome processes of the “National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS)’, which effectively transfers administrative authority for these areas to seriously under-resourced national government agencies, which are thus ill-equipped to development and implement effective protection and restoration measures.

3. Reinvestigate the current status of this species on Masbate and develop and implement relevant conservation management recommendations for the enhanced future protection of any remaining native forest habitats and the potential future reintroduction of this (and other West Visayan endemic species) on this island and on Cebu (where R. alfredi was extirpated in the mid-twentieth century), and in other selected ‘vacant’ habitats on Panay and Negros Islands.

4. Implement priority recommendations re. local awareness-raising arising from recent, range-wide ‘ethnobiological’ surveys, revealing both currently low levels of awareness re. local protection legislation and overwhelming prevalence of ‘recreational’ (rather than ‘subsistence’) hunting in all key sectors.

5. Monitor and control illegal captures and movement of spotted deer; assess status of privately-held captive stocks and continue attempts to access animals of known origin for a collaborative breeding program; develop and extend breeding program through dispersal of breeding stocks on loan to reputable (breeding loan signatory) institutions, which are also prepared to contribute resources and technical assistance for relevant in-situ conservation activities under the aegis of this “flagship” program. Extend these activities to other critically threatened Visayan endemic species and their habitats.

6. Conduct (or complete) systematic (including mtDNA) research on intra- and inter-population variation amongst surviving Negros and Panay Island populations.

Citation: Oliver, W., MacKinnon, J., Heaney, L. & Lastica, E. 2008. Rusa alfredi. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 18 December 2014.
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