‘Lost’ deer species discovered after 78 years in Sumatra
October 10, 2008
A rare species of deer has been rediscovered in Sumatra 78 years after it was last sighted, reports Fauna & Flora International.
The deer, known as the Sumatran muntjac (Muntiacus montanus), was rescued from a snare during an anti-poaching patrol by the Kerinci-Seblat National Park Tiger Protection Team in Kerinci-Seblat National Park. Fauna & Flora International (FFI) subsequently caught two more of the deer on film using camera traps.
While the deer were spotted in a remote part of the Kerinci-Seblat, the presence of snares demonstrates that poaching is a problem in the park. FFI says that agricultural expansion and illegal logging and road building are also threats.
"This encounter shows just how much we still have to discover about Sumatra's rainforests and the biodiversity of Kerinci-Seblat National Park. Yet even as we are learning, the tropical rainforests of Sumatra – even in the mountains and national parks – are under threat. We face losing species we didn't even know existed," said Debbie Martyr, FFI Kerinci-Seblat Programme Manager. "We are also concerned that climate change poses a significant threat to this species – they are a mountain dwelling animal and depend entirely on a montane forest habitat. Where can they go if global temperatures rise significantly?"
Sumatran muntjac (Muntiacus montanus). Photo by Debbie Martyr.
Little is known about the Sumatran muntjac, a species first described in 1914 and last documented in 1930. Given the paucity of data on its ecology and conservation status, IUCN has listed the species of its Red List as "data deficient". FFI says that this listing, combined with apparent threats from hunters, makes research on the species imperative.
"Muntjac have largely lain obscure for the twentieth century and we have certainly much more to learn about them. The montanus story epitomizes this, and should also be seen as a warning of the seriousness of current global environmental deterioration and what we stand to lose; known and unknown," said Robert Timmins, the taxonomist who submitted Muntiacus montanus to the IUCN Red List.
"This muntjac recorded in Kerinci Seblat National Park is extremely important scientifically," added Achmad Jauhar Arief of the Research Center for the Indonesian Academy of Sciences. "We very much hope that, as a result of these photographs, research is launched that will focus on the status and distribution of these muntjac and that the results can be used as a basis for the management of protected areas in which they are present, not least because of human activities which threaten habitat or ecosystems in these conservation areas."
The rediscovery of the muntjac adds to the allure of Kerinci-Seblat National Park. The park, which is the largest protected area on Sumatra, covers 1.4 million hectares of montane and hill forests, some still virtually unexplored. Field research has so far turned up 375 species of birds, and (excluding bats and rodents) more than 86 species of mammal, including elephants, bears, tapirs and Sumatran clouded leopard. The park is a UNESCO Natural World Heritage site.
“We were already very proud of this national park and its globally famous biodiversity and that pride has increased further with this new discovery," said Suyatno Sukandar, Director of the Kerinci-Seblat National Park Authority. "I hope that we can all work together – communities, local government and the national and international scientific and conservation community – to study and conserve this new species of deer for the future.”