Muntiacus muntjak


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Muntiacus muntjak
Species Authority: (Zimmermann, 1780)
Common Name/s:
English Southern Red Muntjac, Red Muntjac, Indian Muntjac, Bornean Red Muntjac, Barking Deer, Sundaland Red Muntjac
Cervus moschatus Blainville, 1816
Cervus muntjak Zimmermann, 1780
Cervus pleiharicus Kohlbrugge, 1896
Muntiacus bancanus Lyon, 1906
Muntiacus rubidus Lyon, 1911
Taxonomic Notes: Groves (2003), elected to raise mainland forms of M. muntjak (s.l.) from subspecific taxa to the species M. vaginalis, leaving the mainly sundaic forms to constitute M. muntjak (s.s.), a position that had already been postulated by previous authors (e.g. Groves and Grubb (1990)). However, this assertion of species status rests on very little evidence, primarily the assumption that all M. muntjac in the Sunda region carry a unique karyotype different from all M. vaginalis in northern regions. However, the Sundaic karyotype has only been documented in a single individual from the Malay Peninsula south of the Ismuth of Kra. Other purported differences (e.g. dorsal darkening, Groves (2003)), if they can be considered characters rather than traits, appear minor and certainly not ones which would separate species level taxa. A much wider sampling of karyotype is needed for this systematic position to be placed on solid ground.

Groves and Grubb 1990 considered the sundaic M. muntjak populations to represent a single subspecies, while considering northern mainland populations (here considered as M. vaginalis) to be composed of many. However, many subspecies have been described from the sunda region, and the geographical variation present is certainly equivalent to that present in (in M. vaginalis) northern regions. Javan and Malay Peninsula populations represent large red forms, Bornean and probably also Sumatran animals appear somewhat smaller and darker, while some offshore island populations (i.e., Bali) are probably significantly smaller.

In this account, Muntiacus muntjak is considered to be exclusively restricted to peninsular Thailand south of the Isthmus of Kra, Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, Borneo, Java, Bali, Lombok and other small islands of the region (Kitchener et al. 1990, Groves 2003). The possible existence of hybrid populations (M. vaginalis x M. muntjak), in northern continental Malaysia, has also been recently pointed out by Groves (2005).

Adding to the systematic confusion throughout the genus, the Red Muntjac is sometimes classified as M. vaginalis, including up to five subspecies including nigripes (Wang 2002).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor/s: Timmins, R.J., Duckworth, J.W., Hedges, S., Pattanavibool, A., Steinmetz, R., Semiadi, G., Tyson, M. & Boeadi
Reviewer/s: Black, P.A. & Gonzalez, S. (Deer Red List Authority)
The Southern Red Muntjac is listed as Least Concern because it remains common throughout most of its range, is resilient to hunting and increases in numbers with logging and presumably other forms of forest disruption, and survives even almost complete conversion of forest to at least some crop plantations. Densities are probably widely below carrying capacity, particularly where habitat is highly fragmented. Its use of the hills means that most of the population is outside the very high forest conversion rates recently occurring in the Sundaic level lowlands, and gives it a healthier conservation outlook than that for M. atherodes with which it is sympatric on Borneo. The coming years will see further fragmentation and if hunting continues at current high levels, wider declines and a higher frequency of local extinction than has so far occurred. Nonetheless, future declines are unlikely to be fast enough to warrant listing the species even as Near Threatened.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Southern Red Muntjac, as defined here, occupy part of the Thai–Malay peninsula and occurs on the main islands of the Greater Sundas (Borneo, Java, Bali and Sumatra) and on various small islands (Chasen 1940; Groves 2003; Meijaard 2003). On Sumatra, it is not geographically limited to southern and eastern parts of the island despite various statements that it is (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008). Taking the northern limit on the peninsula as the Isthmus of Kra (see Taxonomy), M. muntjak (as here defined) is assumed to inhabit southern Thailand and might be found to occur in southernmost Myanmar. It is now extinct in Singapore (Baker and Lim 2008).
Brunei Darussalam; Indonesia; Malaysia; Thailand
Regionally extinct:
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Recent camera-trap studies on all main occupied landmasses show this to be a common species. The following is only a part collation of existing studies. In Sumatra, muntjacs (not identified to species but presumed, given the habitats and altitudes, to be largely or entirely M. muntjak) were camera-trapped very commonly in Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park and around Gunung Leuser (van Schaik and Griffiths 1996; O’Brien et al. 2003). In Thailand, Red Muntjacs were recorded at over 40% of camera-trap locations in Kaeng Krachan National Park, a site that may contain either M. vaginalis or M. muntjak or both. Abundance did not vary with proximity to villages, even though a variety of hunting methods occurs on site (Ngoprasert et al. 2007). In West Malaysia, Red Muntjacs were commonly camera-trapped, at a high proportion of camera-sites, in Taman Negara, where densities were estimated at 3.2–4.05 per km² (Kawanishi and Sunquist 2004), were found to be ubiquitous and common at all nine potential Tiger Panthera tigris areas surveyed by Lynam et al. (2007), and were common in the Jerangau Forest Reserve, an area of secondary forest some of which was being logged at the time of study and where hunting was heavy enough to have eradicated (or reduced to very low densities) species such as Sambar Cervus unicolor (Azlan 2006). During a study of the mammals of West Malaysia’s virgin jungle reserves, they were found in 13 of 14 sites (seven virgin jungle reserves and seven adjacent logged areas), a much greater spread of occurrence than for most other mammals (Laidlaw 2000). In Java muntjacs have “persisted in many areas where there is some forest cover” (Whitten et al. 1996), were camera-trapped commonly in Ujung Kulon National Park (van Schaik and Griffiths 1996) and Gunung Halimun National Park (Suyanto 2003), and were studied in Baluran National Park (East Java) in the 1990s by Tyson (2007); the latter study found densities of 23–25 animals per km² in the park’s mosaic of open woodland, grassland, scrub at under 300 m asl during the dry season. These densities (considerably above those from Taman Negara) may be inflated by daily or seasonal movements of animals coming down to the coastal waterholes. The Baluran population may have benefited from a particular combination of seral processes including the growth of the exotic Acacia nilotica. Muntajcs remain locally very common on Bali (Oka 1998). Determining population status in Borneo is more difficult because of the difficulties of separation from M. atherodes, but it is clearly at least fairly common (Heydon 1994; for further discussion see Habitat and Ecology).
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Southern Red Muntjac are associated with forest, but occur widely even in heavily degraded forest and, in areas adjacent to forest, in plantations of coffee, rubber, sugarcane, cassava, coconut, and teak (Oka 1998; Laidlaw 2000; Azlan 2006; G. Semiadi pers. comm. 2008). However, its ability to survive in landscape-level stands of teak is probably dependent upon the retention of fringes of secondary growth along streams, gullies and other such features (M. Tyson pers. comm. 2008) and this may be so for the other plantation species, too. Peak densities are probably not in pristine forest: in east Java, secondary forest with gallery forest mosaic seems to hold higher densities, and this muntjac may also benefit even from agricultural conversion at forest edges (M. Tyson pers. comm. 2008). Muntjac (presumed to be largely or entirely M. muntjak) abundance was higher in areas within 1 km of the protected area boundary than in the interior of Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, Sumatra (although this pattern was only weakly statistically significant), suggesting an association with edge, broken and secondary habitats (O’Brien et al. 2003). In contrast, an avoidance of the edge of the Taman Negara protected area in Malaysia was suspected by Kawanishi and Sunquist (2004). In Danum Valley (Sabah, Borneo), an area with negligible hunting, M. muntjak strongly increased in densities after logging (Heydon 1994; Davies et al. 2001); a weaker increase was found by Duff et al. (1984). In the Sarawak Planted Forests, Bintulu Division, Sarawak, muntjacs (partly this species) are among the commonest species camera-trapped in young acacia plantations (under four years old) and have been seen browsing on young acacia shoots. Footprints are common in the adjacent newly planted areas and forest fragments (Belden Giman pers. comm. 2008). However, this area contains a substantial proportion of natural, if somewhat degraded, forest, which in theory might be found to be necessary for populations in the highly altered habitats. Information on the species in landscape-scale plantations, remote from even secondary forest, has not been traced. Most of its range is dominated by evergreen vegetation, but it readily uses deciduous forests and mosaics of grassland, scrub, and forest (e.g. on Java; Tyson 2007); on Bali and Java, M. muntjak routinely uses woodland savanna as a feeding ground (Oka 1998; S. Hedges pers. comm. 2008).

This muntjac has a wide altitudinal range. In Java, S. Hedges (pers. comm. 2008) has seen them over 0–800 m. In Sumatra, it occurs widely in the lowlands and the second species there, M. montanus, seems to be montane; whether M. muntjak ascends to the highest forests is yet unclear (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008, based on examination of specimens). On Borneo, Red Muntjac lives up to at least 1,000 m asl on the Usun Apau plateau (Payne et al. 1985), who stated that “available data suggests that [M. atherodes] predominates over the Red Muntjac in low hill ranges and coastal regions”, but Meijaard and Sheil (2008) pointed out that still “no robust quantitative data exist to support this [pattern]”. Red Muntjac is scarcer than M. atherodes in Sungai Wain forest, Kalimantan, which spans 30–150 m asl (G.M. Fredriksson pers. comm. 2008), in the Sarawak Planted Forests, Bintulu Division, a mix of acacia plantation and natural forest (Belden et al. 2007; Belden Giman pers. comm. 2008), and (slightly so) in the Ulu Segama area of Danum Valley Conservation Area, Sabah, which lies mostly at about 300 m asl (Siew Te Wong pers. comm. 2008). In Borneo, muntjacs were frequently seen, suspected to comprise roughly equal numbers of Red and Yellow, in the Batang Ai National Park, Sarawak, which lies mostly at 100–760 m asl (Meredith 1995).

The diet is mostly fruits, buds, tender leaves, flowers, herbs and young grass (Kitchener et al. 1990; Oka 1998). In Taman Negara, Malaysia, camera-trapping showed Red Muntjac to be mostly diurnal (Kawanishi and Sunquist 2004) whereas in Gunung Leuser, Sumatra, it was classed as cathemeral (i.e., sporadic and random intervals of activity during the day or night) (van Schaik and Griffiths 1996) and this is true for East Java (S. Hedges pers. comm. 2008); there may be some variation between localities in balance of day and night activity. It is a mostly solitary species that is capable of breeding through the year, and has been stated to be territorial (Kitchener et al. 1990; Oka 1998). However, Tyson (2007) found no evidence of territoriality in radio-collared female muntjacs of Baluran National Park, Java, although range overlap declined in the rainy season compared with the dry season. Nor was there evidence of males using exclusive ranges in any season, or any clear evidence of territorial defence. As in the case of M. vaginalis, occasional sightings of small groups probably refer to mating pairs, or to females with offspring (Oka 1998), or to loose aggregations at abundant food resources (M. Tyson pers. comm. 2008).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Habitat encroachment and hunting are both widespread in the Sundaic region. Indeed, they are often associated and all Borneo’s ungulates suffer from the increased hunting that often accompanies logging (Bennett and Dahaban 1995, Bennett and Gumal 2001), such that hunting to local extinction is the chief detrimental effect of logging on ungulates in Sarawak (Bennett and Gumal 2001). This conclusion probably is applicable across the Sundaic region. Southern Red Muntjac are widely hunted across its range (e.g. Bennett et al. 2000; Linkie et al. 2003; S. Hedges pers. comm. 2008, based on unpubl. data, East Java, 1991–2002); it is the most sought-after wild meat in Peninsular Malaysia (Kawanishi and Sunquist 2004) and is among the most preferred in Indonesia, although Sambar is the preferred species at least in East Kalimantan (Semiadi et al. 2004; Semiadi 2005).

However, there is no strong evidence that either hunting or habitat disruption are actually threats to the survival of populations except in the case of islands such as Singapore, where it is now extinct (Baker and Lim 2008). Peak densities are not in pristine forest (see Habitat and Ecology), and in Danum Valley (Sabah, Borneo), an area with negligible hunting, M. muntjak strongly increased in densities after logging (Heydon 1994; Davies et al. 2001); a weaker increase was found by Duff et al. (1984). Hence, even quite severe habitat disruption can increase ecological carrying capacity for this muntjac, at least temporarily.

In an area with heavy hunting, recorded densities of muntjacs (presumed M. muntjak) were twice as high in areas with low than with high human population density within 10 km of the Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, Sumatra, but this difference was not statistically significant (O'Brien et al. 2003). Poaching pressure in Kerinci-Seblat National Park, Sumatra, among snared ungulates was greatest for muntjac as assessed by the diameter of the cable. Snaring is locally very high in the protected area, e.g. 51 snares (mostly of size suitable for muntjac) were found in 1 km² (Linkie et al. 2003), although it is much less intense than in areas of Indochina supporting the related M. vaginalis (J. Holden pers. comm. 2008). Data are too sparse to determine whether this hunting is driving declines. Habitat loss is also severe including within parts of the park (Linkie et al. 2003), and is an increasing phenomenon in Java (S. Hedges pers. comm. 2008).

Muntjacs are widely and heavily hunted on Borneo for meat, skins, and as a source of traditional remedies (Bennett et al. 2000; Mohd Azlan J. pers. comm. 2008; Belden Giman pers. comm. 2008; G.M. Fredriksson pers. comm. 2008; A.C. Sebastian pers. comm. 2008; Siew Te Wong pers. comm. 2008). Traditionally, hunting used traps, dogs and spears, and blowpipes. Hunters in remote parts of the interior still use these methods, but most animals now die by gunfire. Sarawak held 60,000 legally registered shotguns while Sabah held almost 13,000 in the mid 1990s (Bennett et al. 2000). Methods used in Indonesia include guns and spotlights along logging roads, snaring, and dogs (G.M. Fredriksson pers. comm. 2008; S. Hedges pers. comm. 2008). The combination of dogs and guns may be particularly efficient (Belden Giman pers. comm. 2008). Snaring is still very heavy outside well-secured areas, but shotguns remain the even bigger problem (Bennett et al. 2000; J. Mohd Azlan pers. comm. 2008; Siew Te Wong pers. comm. 2008). Unaccompanied packs of stray or even perhaps feral dogs are also likely to be a threat, particularly in forest isolates close to urban areas (e.g. Similajau National Park; J.W. Duckworth pers. comm. 2008). It is unlikely that hunters make any distinction between the two Bornean muntjac species directly, although it is plausible that M. muntjak is under lower hunting pressure than is M. atherodes reflecting its purported predominance in the hills and mountains (although there is little empirical evidence to support this), whereas most of the logging concessions currently lie in the lowlands. Some ethnic groups, at least the Punan, have traditional beliefs against eating muntjac meat (Belden Giman pers. comm. 2008), but over most of (at least) Malaysian Borneo, “in general, everyone will hunt and eat anything” (Bennett et al. 2000). Much hunting is for the market rather than local use, so there is a limitless demand. Bennett and Gumal (2001) profiled the hunting of ungulates in Sarawak in the mid 1990s thus: muntjacs (along with Bearded Hog Sus barbatus and Sambar Rusa unicolor) are heavily shot for wild meat trade across Sarawak, and these ungulates are the species most sought by the restaurants. Wild meat is widely sold in towns, villages, restaurants and logging camps throughout Sarawak; 250 sales outlets were estimated across the state in 1996, with an annual trade worth 3.75 million USD. Along the Rejang river alone, in the mid 1980s, 250 muntjacs were sold per year (Caldecott 1988). The market for meat is great and probably expanding. There were, then, no controls on commercial hunting of non-protected species (including muntjacs). The Master Plan for Wildlife in Sarawak (Wildlife Conservation Society and Sarawak Forest Department 1996) introduced a strict ban on all wildlife trade, shotgun ownership and cartridge sales in the late 1990s (Bennett and Gumal 2001). Substantial numbers of muntjacs are, nevertheless, still killed in the state, as they are elsewhere in Borneo.

Bennett et al. (2000) considered the effects of this onslaught upon muntjacs (not distinguished to species) through a lengthy hunting study in February 1993 to June 1995, in both Bornean states of Malaysia (Sarawak and Sabah), each with eight study areas. Muntjacs constituted only 3–10% of animals killed, but index counts of signs show an inverse relationship between sign index and hunting pressure so strong that the latter over-rode the effects of habitat variables in determining their densities. Hunting was so ubiquitous, even in protected areas, that in the two states, only one site (part of Danum Valley, Sabah) could be found as a control, where there was primary forest but negligible hunting levels. They concluded that “the only single factor offering any effective protection for [quarry species of] wildlife is difficulty of access”; whether animals are protected or non-protected species, inside or outside protected areas, had no significant restraint on hunting levels. In the interim, much forest has been lost and muntjac populations in the smaller and more isolated areas that remain must now be more vulnerable to local extinctions.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Southern Red Muntjac is found in many protected areas throughout its range (GMA Indonesia Workshop). It is a protected game species in West Malaysia under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, meaning that it can be hunted only with a license and only outside protected areas (Kawanishi and Sunquist 2004). Indonesian forestry law protects all species of muntjac. Species protection laws relating to ungulates in many areas of Sumatra have not been widely publicized. A significant percentage of Sumatra’s forests are protected, but protected areas and the authorities responsible for conservation of catchment forests are often under-funded and almost all are grossly understaffed so that there is little ranger presence in the field. Where there are field ranger teams, these focus generally on flagship species such as Asian Elephant Elephas maximus, Sumatran Rhinoceros Dicerorhinus sumatrensis or Tiger Panthera tigris, although Tiger protection rangers do also conduct ungulate protection activities and in 2007 three hunters arrested in the national park with two muntjacs carcasses received custodial sentences at Kerinci district court (D. Martyr pers. comm. 2008). Much of Java’s remaining forest is officially protected. Heavy hunting with shotguns was found to be a severe problem for larger mammals and birds across Sarawak and the need for its control (of guns and of sale of ammunition, with firm legal underpinnings) was recognised in the Master Plan for Wildlife in Sarawak (Wildlife Conservation Society and Sarawak Forest Department 1996). As everywhere, people devise ways for circumventing the controls (illegal trade in bullets and locally made shot-guns, called bekakok, which have no administrative or legal paper-trail) and strong enforcement is required for the foreseeable future.

There seem to be no species-specific conservation measures in need of implementation, above turning existing laws on protected areas and protected wildlife into reality, with a particular focus on eradicating wildlife trade.
Citation: Timmins, R.J., Duckworth, J.W., Hedges, S., Pattanavibool, A., Steinmetz, R., Semiadi, G., Tyson, M. & Boeadi 2008. Muntiacus muntjak. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <>. Downloaded on 20 April 2014.
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