Moschus moschiferus


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Moschus moschiferus
Species Authority: Linnaeus, 1758
Common Name(s):
English Siberian Musk Deer
French Chevrotain Porte-musc, Cerf Porte-musc, Porte-musc
Spanish Ciervo Almizclero
Moschus sibiricus Pallas, 1779
Taxonomic Notes: This species was revised by Sokolov and Prikhod'ko (1997, 1997-1998). Five subspecies are currently recognized: M. m. moschiferus (Siberia and Mongolia); M. m. turovi (Russian Far East); M. m. arcticus (Verkhoyansk Ridge); M. m. sachalinensis (Sakhalin); and M. m. parvipes (Korea). M. chrysogaster (Central China) and M. leucogaster (Himalayas) are now treated as separate species (Sokolov and Prikhod'ko 1997, 1997-1998).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2d+3d+4d ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Nyambayar, B., Mix, H. & Tsytsulina, K.
Reviewer(s): Black, P.A. & Gonzalez, S. (Deer Red List Authority)
In the 1970s the population size was estimated at 60,000-80,000 in Mongolia (Dulamtseren 1977). The Institute of Biology of the Mongolian Academy of Science assessed the Mongolian population size in 1986 over 53,000 hectares across 63 units of six provinces, resulting in an estimate of 44,000 individuals. The population size is continuing to decrease: densities fell from six per 5 km², to one per 5 km² in one observed population between 1990 and 2000 (Tsendjav and Bujinkhand 2000, Tsendjav 2002). Similar levels of declines due to poaching are believed to have taken place elsewhere within its range. Generation length has been estimated as six years based on data from Nowak (1991). As the causes of this decline, primarily exploitation, is expected to result in a population reduction of at least 30% over the next three generations, Moschus moschiferus qualifies as Vulnerable under Criterion A3d, and as well as A2d and A4d because of past declines. Further research could show that the species is declining more seriously than has been supposed, and could possible qualify for listing as Endangered.
1996 Vulnerable (Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
1996 Vulnerable
1994 Endangered (Groombridge 1994)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: This species occurs widely in the Russian Federation (Siberia and the Far East), extreme eastern Kazakhstan, northeastern and northwestern China, Mongolia, Republic of Korea and Democratic People's Republic of Korea (Tsendjav, 2002). Records from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and Viet Nam refer to other species in the genus Moschus. Four subspecies occur in Russia: M. m. moschiferus (Siberia); M. m. turovi (Russian Far East); M. m. arcticus (Verkhoyansk Ridge); and M. m. sachalinensis (Sakhalin Island). In Mongolia, M. m. moschiferus is found regionally in the forested habitats in the northern Mongol Altai mountain range (Togtokhbayar et al., 2000), Hangai mountain range (Sosorburam, 1970; Dulamtseren, 1977; Dulamtseren et al., 1989), Hentii and Hövsgöl mountain ranges, and possibly around Han Höhii Mountain in the western Hangai mountain range (Dulamtseren et al., 1989; Wemmer, 1998; Tsendjav, 2002). Two subspecies are found in China: M. m. moschiferus in Xinjiang (Altai mountains), Nei Mongol, and Heilongjiang; and M. m. parvipes along the border with North Korea in the Lesser Xing’an and Changbai mountain ranges, as far west as Ordos Plateau. M. m. parvipes occurs widely in both North and South Korea.
China; Kazakhstan; Korea, Democratic People's Republic of; Korea, Republic of; Mongolia; Russian Federation
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: During the 1920s and 1930s numbers were sharply reduced through hunting. In the 1970s the Mongolian population size was estimated to be between 60,000 and 80,000 animals (Dulamtseren, 1977). In 1986, the Institute of Biology of the Mongolian Academy of Science assessed musk deer population sizes in over 53,000 hectares across 63 units of six provinces, resulting in an estimate of approximately 44,000 individuals. The population size in Mongolia continued to decrease: between 1990 and 2000, densities fell from six per 5 km², to one per 5 km² in one observed population (Tsendjav and Bujinkhand, 2000; Tsendjav, 2002). Likewise, all populations in Russia are considered declining. Population estimates from the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife in 1999 put the Sakhalin population at about 600-650 individuals (still declining), the Eastern Siberian population at about 27,000-30,000 individuals, and the population in the Russian Far East at up to 150,000 individuals (K. Tsytsulina pers. comm.). Equivalent data appear not to be available for China or the Koreas, but these species is believed to be declining heavily there also. It is believed to be contracting in range in China, and had apparently disappeared from Xinjiang by the end of the 19th century.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Inhabiting mountainous taiga (broadleaf and needle forest), these animals are typically found in forests of dense birch (Betula spp.) and larch (Larix spp.), and shrub-covered slopes in sub-alpine zones (Dulamtseren, 1977; Dulamtseren et al., 1989; Tsendjav, 2002). In Russia it inhabits the mid-mountain belt where it prefers dark coniferous forest with dense shrubs and rocky outcrops, using such rocky areas to escape from predators (Prohod’ko, 2002). However, lichens are the main part of Siberian musk deer diet, accounting for up to 99% of the food intake in winter. During the rest of the year the percentage of lichen in the diet is still high, but these deer also consume grasses, leaves and mushrooms. When feeding it is able to climb on inclined trunks up to 3-4 m above ground. Population density is highly correlated with the availability of food and hiding places. The average population density is about 0.6 animals per square kilometre, although under favourable conditions this may be as high as 4-8.5 animals per square kilometer (Prohod’ko, 2002). It has a thick coat for insulation and is well adapted for walking through deep snow. They are preyed upon by a suite of predators including lynx, wolverine, yellow-throated marten, and rarely wolf, tiger, and bear. When chased, musk deer head for rocky terrain, and will try to reach an inaccessible crag or a shelter. If neither is available, the animal begins to run in circles. Although they can run exeptionally fast, musk deer tire after only 200-300 metres.

They are solitary, though they sometimes occur in small groups (no more than 3 individuals) of a female with her young. In the Altai, family groups consist usually of an adult permanent couple and the young of the year. The territory of female and young lies within the territory of a male. Sometimes the group includes young males up to 2 years old, that are submissive to the adult male, but actively participate in making and protecting common territory (Prohod’ko, 2002). They are primarily active at dusk and dawn. While foraging, a musk deer may travel 3-7 km per night, generally returning to the same spot (a "lair") every morning. Individuals inhabit home ranges between 200 and 300 hectares in size, sticking to the boundaries steadfastly. The size of the home range decreases markedly during the second half of winter. Seasonal migrations are minimal if present at all. Reproduction starts in December, although some females do not mate until March (Prohod’ko, 2002). Females gestate for just over 6 months, and give birth to 1-3 offpsring, usually in May and June. Young wean at 3-4 months, and are mature at 15-17 months. Animals live in the wild for 10-14 years.
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): As the common name suggests, males secrete musk from a preputial gland (the “musk-pod”). This musk forms the basis for many perfumes, and is highly valued for traditional medicines (Wemmer, 1998). Each male produces only around 25 g of musk (Dulamtseren et al., 1989; Tsendjav, 2002). Although this musk can be extracted from live animals, most "musk-gatherers" kill the animals to remove the entire sac.

Illegal, unsustainable hunting for musk is the principal threat to this species. An estimated 25,000 adult males were killed through harvesting and illegal hunting between 1990 and 2001 (Homes, 2004). As hunting is often indiscriminate of sex and age, four to five Siberian musk deer are estimated to be killed per musk-pod harvested (Green, 1987). As cheaper, synthetic alternatives for making perfumes are becoming more popular, use of musk in the perfume industry is decreasing, but its value for cardiac, circulatory and respiratory traditional medicines remains high. During the 1970s, the international market value of musk reached up to $45,000 USD per kg. Between 1995 and 2001, the number of traders in musk increased six-fold, following a similar increase in the market price of musk-pods (Zahler et al., 2004). Resource extraction such as mining is not causing a substantial loss of habitat at present, but the resulting human disturbance from this activity does constitute a threat. Habitat fragmentation may also threaten the species (Tsendjav and Bujinkhand, 2000).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species is listed under CITES Appendix II. The Sakhalin subspecies (M. m. sachaliensis) is listed in Red List of Russian Federation as Category I (Critically Endangered). It is protected as Very Rare under part 7.1 of the Law of the Mongolian Animal Kingdom (2000). Hunting in mongolia has been prohibited since 1953, and it is protected as Very Rare under the 1995 Mongolian Hunting Law (MNE, 1996). It is listed in the 1997 Mongolian Red Book (MNE, 1997). It is also on the Chinese Red List as Endangered A1cd, and is included on the China Key List - II.

In Russia it is present in a number of protected areas. Approximately 13% of the species’ range in Mongolia occurs within protected areas. The following conservation measures are in place in Mongolia:
• More than 1.5 million hectares of the range of this species is included within Horgo Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park (Hangai Mountain Range), Hövsgöl Nuur National Park (Hövsgöl Mountain Range), and Gorkhi Terelj National Park, Bogd Khan Uul Strictly Protected Area, and Khan Hentii Strictly Protected Area in Hentii Mountain Range (Wemmer, 1998).

The following conservation measures are needed through its range (Wang et al 1993; Wemmer et al 1998):
• Enhance enforcement of existing protective legislature, particularly relating to trade in musk through increased vigilance within protected areas and by customs agents at border crossings.
• Conduct further ecological research and monitor population trends, including on population dynamics, dispersal, and the effects of harvesting. No national surveys of Siberian musk deer population size have been conducted for over 30 years (Homes, 2004).
• Regulate illegal logging and human-caused fires within its range (R. Reading pers. comm.).
• Organise a workshop including representatives from Mongolia, China, Russia and the Koreas to focus international efforts on conservation and to agree upon realistic yet effective solutions to threats faced by this species (Homes, 2004).
• Identify substitutes for musk which would be acceptable in traditional forms of East Asian medicine (Homes, 2004).

The species is successfully bred in captivity at musk deer farms, especially in Russua (in the Altai and Moscow regions) and China.

Citation: Nyambayar, B., Mix, H. & Tsytsulina, K. 2008. Moschus moschiferus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <>. Downloaded on 22 December 2014.
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