Conservation news

What is a sambar deer? Candid Animal Cam meets the vulnerable deer

  • Every Tuesday, Mongabay brings you a new episode of Candid Animal Cam, our show featuring animals caught on camera traps around the world and hosted by Romi Castagnino, our writer and conservation scientist.

Camera traps bring you closer to the secretive natural world and are an important conservation tool to study wildlife. This week we’re meeting a large deer native to the Indian subcontinent, South China, and Southeast Asia: the sambar deer.

Sambar deer (Rusa unicolor) is found in a variety of ecosystems. Due to this, its size and appearance vary widely across its range, which has led to some taxonomic confusion in the past; as a result over 40 different scientific synonyms have been used for the species! Individuals belonging to western subspecies tend to be larger than those from the east. Sambar deer eat a wide variety of vegetation, including grasses, foliage, fruit, water plants, shrubs and trees, and they can weigh more than 500 kg. Did you know that male adult sambar deer and pregnant or lactating females have a hairless red spot located mid-way down their throats that sometimes oozes a white liquid? Biologists suggest the sore spot may be linked with glandular activity. Watch the video to learn more about this deer!

Special thanks to Dr Matthew Luskin and Mr Jonathan Moore for sharing their camera trap footage taken in Sumatra, Thailand and Borneo. Dr Luskin conducts wildlife sampling in Southeast Asia to study the impacts of oil palm on wildlife communities and Mr Moore’s research focuses primarily on animal-plant interactions.

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Romi Castagnino is Mongabay’s bilingual writer. Find her on Twitter and Instagram: @romi_castagnino