Moschus cupreus


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Moschus cupreus
Species Authority: 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: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor/s: Timmins, R.J. & Duckworth, J.W.
Reviewer/s: Black, P.A. & Gonzalez, S. (Deer Red List Authority)
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.

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.
Afghanistan; India; Pakistan
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 localised. The results are somewhat equivocal, but during the first survey in 2006/2007 only 7 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 asl (WCS/USAID Afghanistan Biodiversity Conservation Program / Maria Karlstetter pers. comm. 2008).
Population Trend: Decreasing

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).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): There is a high trade in musk deer parts, particularly pods, into China and elsewhere in north-east 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 / Maria 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.
Citation: Timmins, R.J. & Duckworth, J.W. 2008. Moschus cupreus. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <>. Downloaded on 17 April 2014.
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