Rusa alfredi 

Scope: Global
Language: English

Translate page into:

Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Cetartiodactyla Cervidae

Scientific Name: Rusa alfredi Sclater, 1870
Common Name(s):
English Phillipine Spotted Deer, Prince Alfred’s Spotted Deer, Visayan Spotted Deer
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 recognized as a separate, endemic and highly distinct species until 1983 (Grubb and Groves 1983). 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: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-03-30
Assessor(s): Brook, S.M.
Reviewer(s): Duckworth, J.W. & McShea, W.J.
Contributor(s): Oliver, W.R.T., MacKinnon, J.R., Heaney, L. & Lastica, E.
Rusa alfredi is listed as Endangered because its population size is estimated to number fewer than 2,500 mature individuals, there is an estimated continuing decline in the number of mature individuals, and no subpopulation is likely to contain more than 250 mature individuals. Its area of occupancy, based on maximal extent of plausibly occupied habitat, as shown in this account's map, is estimated to be circa 1,100 km².

Rusa alfredi density is not known but given that this species is still extensively hunted throughout its range, it is plausible that it is at very low densities, perhaps comparable to those of Sambar (Rusa unicolor) in heavily hunted parts of its range. Sambar density in Huai Kha Khaeng National Park, Thailand, a relatively well protected area that retains a breeding population of Tiger (Panthera tigris) and wild Water Buffalo (Bubalus arnee) is about 2 to 3 individuals km². In Taman Nagara National Park, Malaysia, hunting has reduced the density of Sambar to <1 animal per km². In India density ranges from 1 to 10 animals per km² depending on the level of protection from hunting. In other parts of its range Sambar density is simply too low to permit estimation (Timmins et al. 2015). Assuming then that the situation for Rusa alfredi is more similar to Sambar in Malaysia and to areas receiving little protection in India, than to Huai Kha Khaeng in Thailand, an estimated density of <1 animal per km² seems likely. This would give a population of about 1,100 animals and assuming that about two-thirds of the pre-breeding population are mature individuals, this would suggest a population of approximately 700 mature individuals.

Given that the species remains under intense hunting pressure and habitat loss is ongoing, the population decline is most likely to be continuing and the disjunct nature of the surviving distribution means that there are highly likely to be fewer than 250 mature individuals in each subpopulation, thus meeting the criteria for Endangered C2a(i). This species' assessment should be updated as new information on its population status becomes available.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species is endemic to the Western Visayan Islands (or Negros–Panay Faunal Region) of the central Philippines. Previously the species was found on Panay, Guimaras, Negros, Cebu, Masbate and probably Ticao Islands (Heaney et al. 1998; Grubb 2005; Oliver 1993, 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’. This species is replaced by Rusa mariannus on Bohol and all other larger Philippine Islands east of Huxley’s Line (i.e., excluding Palawan) (Grubb 2005; Oliver 1993, 1996).
Countries occurrence:
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:1100
Upper elevation limit (metres):2000
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 fragmented and declining, although evidently the species is able to use a wide variety of habitats. Currently, the species is estimated to have been extirpated from 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 fewer than 2,500 mature individuals.

Recent biological surveys of southern Negros suggest that the species is far less numerous than is the Visayan Warty Pig (Sus cebifrons) (N. Maddison pers. comm. 2016). Sambar density in Huai Kha Khaeng National Park, Thailand, a relatively well protected area that retains a breeding population of Tiger (Panthera tigris) and wild Water Buffalo (Bubalus arnee) is about 2 to 3 individuals km². In Taman Nagara National Park, Malaysia, hunting has reduced the density of Sambar to <1 animal per km². In India density ranges from 1 to 10 animals per km² depending on the level of protection from hunting. In other parts of its range Sambar density is simply too low to permit estimation (Timmins et al. 2015). Assuming then that the situation for Rusa alfredi is more similar to Sambar in Malaysia and to areas receiving little protection in India, than to Huai Kha Khaeng in Thailand, an estimated density of <1 animal per km² seems likely. This would give a population of about 1,100 animals, and assuming that about two-thirds of the pre-breeding population are mature individuals, this would suggest a population size of approximately 700 mature individuals.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:700Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Population severely fragmented:Yes
All individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:This deer formerly occurred from sea-level to at least 2,000 m asl in primary and secondary growth forest. It can persist in some degraded habitats such as cogon grasslands as long as there are areas of dense cover. Its preferred habitat is not clear, since it is now restricted to steep, rugged slopes of dipterocarp forest that are inaccessible 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 its diet are young shoots of cogon grass (found in clearings) and young low-growing leaves and buds within forests. It is predominantly a browser, but also a grazer (captive animals also relish fruit). It also visits burnt forest clearings for the pioneering shoots that grow there. 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.

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: It is hunted for food (for both local subsistence and national commercial use) 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, it is still intensively hunted throughout its remaining range; both by local farmers in hinterland communities and recreational hunters from larger cities; both of these 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 evidenced 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 1993, 1996).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species is fully protected under Philippine law, but effective enforcement is lacking in most areas. A number of new protected areas has been established within the range of the species, but management and enforcement likewise remain ineffective in most (perhaps all) such areas. Awareness levels have increased greatly; unfortunately, this has not yet led 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 (ca 18,000 ha); Mount Talinis/Lake Balinsasayao Reserve (ca 11,000 ha); and the proposed West Panay Mountains National Park (ca 70,000 ha). However, the formal declaration of the latter area eventually due to 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 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 auspices 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 Philippines 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 2013, there were 29 (12 male,17 female) animals in the Negros captive breeding programme and 138 animals (57 male, 81 female)in captivity overall, including 27 institutions in Europe (Schubert and Heckel 2013), and efforts are currently underway 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 (Oliver 1996, Oliver et al. 2003, Lorica and Oliver 2007).

Recommended conservation actions include:
  • Enhance management and protection of existing protected areas, most of which are effectively ‘unmanaged’ and ‘unprotected’ at present, receiving no national budgetary resource allocations. One means of doing this would be to facilitate 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 (whence R. alfredi was extirpated in the mid-twentieth century), and in other selected ‘vacant’ habitats on Panay and Negros Islands.
  • Implement priority recommendations concerning. local awareness-raising arising from recent, range-wide ‘ethno-biological’ surveys, revealing both currently low levels of awareness of local protection legislation and overwhelming prevalence of ‘recreational’ (rather than ‘subsistence’) hunting in all key sectors.
  • Monitor and control illegal captures and movement of Philippine Spotted Deer; assess status of privately-held captive stocks and continue attempts to access animals of known origin for a collaborative breeding programme; develop and extend breeding programme 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’ programme. Extend these activities to other seriously threatened Visayan endemic species and their habitats.
  • Conduct (or complete) systematic (including mtDNA) research on intra- and inter-population variation amongst surviving Negros and Panay Island populations.

Classifications [top]

1. Forest -> 1.6. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Moist Lowland
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
1. Forest -> 1.9. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Moist Montane
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
3. Shrubland -> 3.6. Shrubland - Subtropical/Tropical Moist
suitability:Suitable  major importance:No
4. Grassland -> 4.6. Grassland - Subtropical/Tropical Seasonally Wet/Flooded
suitability:Suitable  major importance:No
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
3. Species management -> 3.3. Species re-introduction -> 3.3.1. Reintroduction
3. Species management -> 3.4. Ex-situ conservation -> 3.4.1. Captive breeding/artificial propagation
4. Education & awareness -> 4.3. Awareness & communications

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
In-Place Species Management
  Subject to ex-situ conservation:Yes
In-Place Education
  Subject to recent education and awareness programmes:Yes
2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.1. Annual & perennial non-timber crops -> 2.1.2. Small-holder farming
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

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

5. Biological resource use -> 5.3. Logging & wood harvesting -> 5.3.5. Motivation Unknown/Unrecorded
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

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

Bibliography [top]

Cox, R. 1987. The Philippine spotted deer and the Visayan warty pig. Oryx 21: 37–42.

Evans, T.D., Dutson, G.C.L. and Brooks, T.M. 1993. Cambridge Philippines Rainforest Project 1991 Final Report. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.

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.

Grubb, P. and Groves, C.P. 1983. Notes on the taxonomy of the deer (Mammalia, Cervidae) of the Phillipines. Zoologischer Anzeiger 210: 119-144.

Heaney, L.R., Balete, D.S., Dollar, M.L., Alcala, A.C., Dans, A.T.L., Gonzales, P.C., Ingle, N.R., Lepiten, M.V., Oliver, W.L.R., Ong, P.S., Rickart, E.A., Tabaranza Jr., B.R. and Utzurrum, R.C.B. 1998. A synopsis of the mammalian fauna of the Philippine Islands. Fieldiana: Zoology (New Series) 88: 1–61.

IUCN. 2016. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2016-2. Available at: (Accessed: 04 September 2016).

Lorica, R.P. and Oliver, W.L.R. 2007. Reintroduction of threatened endemic species in the West Visayas – a preliminary report on possible future reintroduction sites. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Government of the Philippines.

Meijaard, I. and Groves, C.P. 2004. Morphometrical relationships between South-east Asian deer (Cervidae, tribe Cervini): evolutionary and biogeographic implications. Journal of Zoology 263: 179-196.

Oliver, W.L.R. 1993. Threatened endemic artiodactyls of the Philippines: status and future priorities. International Zoo Yearbook 32: 131-144.

Oliver, W.L.R. 1994. Threatened endemic mammals of the Philippines: an integrated approach to the management of wild and captive populations. In: P.J.S. Olney, G.M. Mace and A.T.C. Feistner (eds), Creative Conservation: Interactive Management of Wild and Captive Animals, pp. 467-477. Chapman & Hall, London, UK.

Oliver, W.L.R. 1996. Philippine spotted deer (Cervus alfredi) conservation program. IUCN/SSC Deer Specialist Group Newsletter 13: 14.

Oliver, W.L.R. and Lastica, E.A. 2003. Philippine Spotted Deer (Cervus alfredi) Conservation Programme – Programme Brief 1990-2010. Unpublished report to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Government of the Philippines.

Oliver, W.L.R. and Lastica, E.A. 2005. Philippine Spotted Deer (Cervus alfredi) Conservation Programme – Conservation Action Plan Programme Brief 2005-2010. Unpublished report to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Government of the Philippines.

Oliver, W.L.R. and Wirth, R. 1997. Conservation programmes for threatened endemic species in the Philippines. International Zoo News 43(5): 337-348.

Oliver, W.L.R., Cox, R. and Dolar, L.L. 1991. The Philippine spotted deer conservation project. Oryx 25: 199–205.

Oliver, W.L.R., Dolar, M L. and Alcala, E. 1992. The Philippine spotted deer, Cervus alfredi Sclater, conservation program. Silliman Journal 36: 47-54.

Pitra, C., Fickel, J., Meijaard, E. and Groves, C.P. 2004. Evolution and phylogeny of old world deer. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 33: 880-895.

Rabor, D.S. 1977. Philippine birds and mammals. University of the Philippines Science Education Center, Quezon City.

Schubert, C. and Heckel, J-O. 2013. . International Visayan Spotted Deer (Negros) Studbook Rusa alfredi. World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Timmins, R., Kawanishi, K., Giman, B, Lynam, A., Chan, B., Steinmetz, R., Sagar Baral, H. and Samba Kumar, N. 2015. Rusa unicolor. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Wemmer, C. 1998. Deer Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Whitehead, K.G. 1993. The Whitehead Encyclopedia of Deer. Voyageur Press, Inc, Stillwater, MN, USA.

Citation: Brook, S.M. 2016. Rusa alfredi. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T4273A22168782. . Downloaded on 20 June 2018.
Disclaimer: To make use of this information, please check the <Terms of Use>.
Feedback: If you see any errors or have any questions or suggestions on what is shown on this page, please provide us with feedback so that we can correct or extend the information provided