Cervus albirostris


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Cervus albirostris
Species Authority: Przewalski, 1883
Common Name(s):
English White-lipped Deer, Thorold's Deer
Cervus sellatus Przewalski, 1883
Cervus thoroldi Blanford, 1893
Przewalskium albirostris (Przewalski, 1883)
Taxonomic Notes: This species was formerly considered as Cervus albirostris. No subspecies are recognized.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2c ver 3.1
Year Published: 2014
Date Assessed: 2008-07-02
Assessor(s): Harris, R.B.
Reviewer(s): Black-Decima, P.A. & González, S.
Listed as Vulnerable because of a population decline, estimated to be more than 30% over the last three generations (estimated at 21 years), inferred from over-exploitation, shrinkage in distribution, and habitat degradation. However, recent measures to curb poaching might have stabilized the situation, and the species should be reassessed before long.
1996 Vulnerable
1994 Vulnerable (Groombridge 1994)
1990 Vulnerable (IUCN 1990)
1988 Indeterminate (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
1986 Indeterminate (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The species previously ranged across much of the eastern Tibetan Plateau (Koizumi et al. 1993). The species presently occurs in fragmented populations in northwestern and southwestern Gansu, eastern and central, and southern Qinghai, eastern Tibet, western Sichuan, and northwest Yunnan (Ohtaishi and Gao 1990; Yu et al. 1990; Kaji et al. 1989,1993; Schaller 1998; Wu and Wang 1999).
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: There is no global population estimate. The species is distributed sporadically at low density, with some 2,000 individuals estimated in Gansu and Qinghai, and 4,000 individuals in Sichuan and the Tibet Autonomous Region (Wu pers. comm. 1990). Wang (1998) estimated a total population of some 7,000 (although Liu and Yin 1993 postulated 5,800 within the Tibetan Autonomous Region only). The species typically lives in high-elevation, remote habitats, and appears to have large, unpredictable ranges. Thus developing a reliable estimate of abundance will be difficult without intensive and rigorous efforts.

During the 1990s and first part of the 21st century, there have been anecdotal reports suggesting that white-lipped deer populations may be increasing, at least in some portions of their Tibetan Plateau range (e.g., Harris and Loggers 2004).
Population Trend: Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This species inhabits conifer forest, rhododendron and willow scrub and alpine grasslands from 3,500 to 5,100 m asl; is somewhat lower in winter (Koizumi et al. 1993; G. Schwede pers. comm. 1998). Compared with other cervids on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, the White-lipped Deer is most likely to be found in open habitats. The species' diet is comprised mostly of grasses, herbs, lichens, leaves and bark of trees and bushes (Tatatsuki et al. 1988, Wu and Wang 1999). In summer in alpine meadows, they may feed extensively on sedges (Harris and Miller 1995). The species occurs in seasonally large herds (up to 200–300), and female families (Miura et al. 1989). Males and females live separately except during the breeding season. In winter, they may range in the vicinity of lakes and rivers when food availability is higher (Jia-Yan Wu pers. comm. 1998). Calving is between late May and early July (Koizumi et al. 1993; Yu et al. 1993) following a rut in October (Sheng and Ohtaishi 1993). Gestation estimated at 246 days (Yu et al. 1993). Age at first reproduction in captivity is two years (hinds) and five years (stags) (Koizumi et al. 1993).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The species is hunted for meat, antlers, and other organs, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine (Koizumi et al. 1993). The species has been heavily depleted, especially due to hunting young individuals for their antlers. Guns have recently been confiscated from most pastoralists living in proximity to white-lipped deer in China, however, and poaching appears to be on the decline generally (Harris 2007). Throughout its range, competition with livestock is major threat, leading to habitat degradation. Populations have become seriously fragmented as a result of these threats (Koizumi et al. 1993; Ohtaishi and Gao 1990; Harris 2007). The species is extensively farmed for antler production on government farms in China (and in other countries, such as New Zealand).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: White-lipped Deer are listed as a Class I protected species under Chinese law.

Government deer farms were established during the 1970s and 1980s to supply the market and prevent poaching. Many had closed by the end of the 1980s due to overproduction by farms in New Zealand and elsewhere (prices in China dropped due to imports). For internationally held stock see ISIS (1993).

White-lipped Deer occur in a few large nature reserves in western China, such as Yanchiwan (and possibly Qilian Shan) in Gansu, and Sanjiangyuan in Qinghai. However, habitat protection is not guaranteed by legal protection as a nature reserve (Harris 2007).

Citation: Harris, R.B. 2014. Cervus albirostris. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <>. Downloaded on 30 March 2015.
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