Moschus cupreus 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Cetartiodactyla Moschidae

Scientific Name: Moschus cupreus Grubb, 1982
Common Name(s):
English Kashmir Muskdeer, Kashmir Musk-deer
Taxonomic Notes: This species was originally described as a subspecies of Alpine Musk Deer M. chrysogaster. It is very similar to Himalayan Musk Deer M. leucogaster, but Groves et al. (1995) suggested that it might be a separate species, a course followed by Grubb (2005) and it is so treated here.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered A2d ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2014-11-17
Assessor(s): Timmins, R.J. & Duckworth, J.W.
Reviewer(s): McShea, W.J. & Brook, S.M.
Listed as Endangered because of a probable serious population decline, estimated to be more than 50% over the last three generations (approximately 21 years), inferred from over-exploitation, which is characteristic of this genus. Although there is no direct data available regarding recent declining population rates, the above-mentioned rate of decline seems reasonable based on the high levels of harvesting. It should also be noted that the species has a relatively restricted range, and so its population is unlikely to be large.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Moschus cupreus occurs in the Himalayas of extreme northern India and Pakistan in Kashmir, and northern Afghanistan (Grubb 2005). Habibi (2003) recounts anecdotal reports from the late 1940s and 1970s of the species from Nuristan Province eastern Afghanistan. The author thought that Muskdeer "must be regarded as extremely rare" in Afghanistan.
Countries occurrence:
Afghanistan; India; Pakistan
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Little is known of the species’s current status. Two recent interview surveys with local communities in the central part of Nuristan province, northeastern Afghanistan, suggest that small numbers of Muskdeer may be present in the remnant of the eastern forests (oak and pine). Numbers are likely to be low and perhaps very localized. The results are somewhat equivocal, but during the first survey in 2006/2007 only seven out of 97 respondents reported hunting of the species. However, a more recent survey in 2008 of over 100 respondents found that Muskdeer are commonly known and that they are widely hunted. Camera-trap surveys conducted in the same area between August and December 2007, aimed at base line assessment of large mammal occurrence, did not detect Muskdeer, although a range of other large mammals were photographed between 1,150 and 3,010 m (WCS/USAID Afghanistan Biodiversity Conservation Program / M. Karlstetter pers. comm. 2008).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Nothing appears to be known of this species’s habitat or ecology, although based on its close taxonomic relationship to M. chrysogaster, it is presumably similar to that species. M. chrysogaster is found on barren plateaus at high altitudes, where it occupies meadows, fell-fields, shrublands or fir forests. It feeds mainly on grasses, shrubs, leaves, moss, lichens, shoots, and twigs (Green 1987). It is generally solitary and crepuscular (Harris and Cai 1993).
Generation Length (years):7

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: No recent information traced on uses of the species; assumed to be similar as for other members of the genus; see under Threats.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): There is a high trade in Muskdeer parts, particularly pods, into China and elsewhere in northeast Asia (see accounts for other Moschus species). Many relatively high-volume illicit wildlife trade links pass through M. cupreus’s range, so it is certain to be under some level of threat from trade. The unstable taxonomy hampers abilities to assess threat levels directly to species, especially as parts like pods are not readily identifiable to species anyway.

Besides hunting for meat, which is considered a delicacy locally, hunting of the Muskdeer is primarily for trade of musk glands, which reached the area reportedly only 30 years ago and has led to a substantial increase in hunting since then. The musk produced by this genus of primitive deer is highly valued for its cosmetic and alleged pharmaceutical properties, and can fetch U.S. $45,000 per kilogram (2.2 pounds) on the international market. Although this musk, produced in a gland of the males, can be extracted from live animals, most "musk-gatherers" kill the animals to remove the entire sac, which yields only about 25 grams (1/40 of a kilogram) of the brown waxy substance. Such poaching is relatively easy to accomplish and difficult to stop using only legal means. Today local hunters are reportedly able to get ca $200-250 per musk gland from mostly foreign traders (the main market is reportedly in the Middle East). The increased availability of guns over the last few decades and the political instability in the area, which has resulted in a basically uncontrolled trade to bordering Pakistan, have added significantly to the amount of wildlife being hunted for trade. During the summer the species stays in higher mountain regions and is apparently opportunistically hunted by shepherds (almost all of whom carry guns for hunting purposes). Most animals are reportedly hunted in winter when Muskdeer distribution and ranging patterns are most predictable. As reported, the species is exclusively hunted with guns; snares apparently are not being used at least in the area surveyed (WCS/USAID Afghanistan Biodiversity Conservation Program / M. Karlstetter pers. comm. 2008).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species is listed on CITES Appendix I. It is uncertain what conservation measures exist for this species given its taxonomic ambiguity. The high value of the parts in trade mean that conservation requires effective hand-on anti-poaching activity. It is likely to occur in some protected areas in India and Pakistan. The Government of Afghanistan has listed M. cupreus on the country’s Protected Species List, banning all hunting and trading of this species within Afghanistan.

Classifications [top]

1. Forest -> 1.4. Forest - Temperate
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
3. Shrubland -> 3.4. Shrubland - Temperate
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
4. Grassland -> 4.4. Grassland - Temperate
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
1. Land/water protection -> 1.1. Site/area protection
1. Land/water protection -> 1.2. Resource & habitat protection
2. Land/water management -> 2.1. Site/area management
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.1. Harvest management
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.2. Trade management
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.1. International level
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.2. National level

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
  Included in international legislation:Yes
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:Yes
5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.1. Intentional use (species is the target)
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

1. Research -> 1.1. Taxonomy
1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
1. Research -> 1.6. Actions
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

♦  Food - human
 Local : ✓   National : ✓ 

♦  Other chemicals
 International : ✓ 

Bibliography [top]

Green, M.J.B. 1987. Some ecological aspects of a Himalayan population of musk deer. In: C.M. Wemmer (ed.), The Biology and Management of Cervidae, pp. 307-319. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D. C., USA.

Groves, C.P., Yingxiang, W. and Grubb, P. 1995. Taxonomy of Musk-Deer, Genus Moschus (Moschidae, Mammalia). Acta Theriologica Sinica 15(3): 181-197.

Grubb, P. 2005. Artiodactyla. In: D.E. Wilson & D.M. Reeder (ed.), Mammal Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed), pp. 637-722. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, USA.

Habibi, K. 2004. Mammals of Afghanistan. Zoo Outreach Organisation/USFWS, Coimbatore, India.

Harris, R.B. and Cai, G.Q. 1993. Autumn home range of musk deer in Baizha Forest, Tibetan plateau. Journal Bombay Natural History Society 90: 430-436.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. Available at: (Accessed: 23 June 2015).

Citation: Timmins, R.J. & Duckworth, J.W. 2015. Moschus cupreus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T136750A61979453. . Downloaded on 19 June 2018.
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