Black musk deer
|Black musk deer|
Moshchus fuscus (more commonly, the "Dusky Musk Deer") is, in appearance, a small deer with long, thick hind legs in comparison to the front legs, and no antlers. The dusky musk have large and well developed ears and eyes. Males and females are similarly sized, between 70 and 100 cm in length and 10 and 15 kg in weight, and generally have thick brown hair. There is variation in color and vibrancy, which is evident in spotting. (Nowak) Upper canine teeth in males form sabers that can extend past the jaw, but not in females. Unlike most Cervids, this creature possess a gallbladder and does not have the same facial glands. Mature males have a musk gland between the naval and genitalia, and females have two mammae.
Black musk deer have mating periods beginning in late November into December, lasting roughly one month. They have a polygynous mating system, mating with more than one female at a time. Breeding typically occurs in November and December. During mating season, males excrete scents from scent glands in order to protect their territory (
Gestation lasts roughly six months, ending in parturition which normally occurs during the summer in June or July. Typically, females will give birth to one or two young. The newborns weigh approximately 500 g, and have spots. The young are cared for by their mother after birth for several months, during which weaning occurs. This process generally takes between three and four months. At six months, the young have typically reached full adult size. Sexual maturity, however, does not occur until roughly 18 months.
Not much is known about Black Musk Deer parental care. Females are generally the main care taker, as they watch their young for roughly 3 to 4 months. Typically, the young travel with their mother throughout this period, during which the mother defends and grooms her young. The role of the father in parental care is currently unknown.
All animals have a certain position on the food web. Even something like the Black Musk Deer, although it is only endangered, its lack of species numbers has a detrimental effect on the environment in which it lives and the food web in which it participates in. Although, the impact of the Black Musk Deer on an ecosystem is not 100% understood, it is believed to have had an impact on the vegetation being that that they consume mostly grass other plants. Because they are hunted by humans and other animals such as the wolverine, lynx, and yellow-throated marten, their numbers have been greatly reduced. This is why they are now on the endangered species list. With less Black Musk Deer around, it has become more difficult for these predators to find food, greatly affecting the food web.
The musk glands of the full-grown male Black Musk Deer have been collected for use in soaps and perfumes by humans. The deer are hunted by the dozens by people and companies looking to make money. At one point in the 1980s, the musk of the adult male deer was worth more than gold. Because of its high demand in the soap and perfume market, the price of the musk was very high. Another reason the deer are hunted is due to the Chinese belief that the musk of the deer has medicinal purposes. By tradition, they use it as a sedative and a stimulant.
Due to excessive hunting by humans of the Black Musk Deer, it has been since placed on the endangered list. Another issue associated with the loss of the deer is habitat loss from deforestation. Right now not much is being done to save the deer from possible extinction. At the rate the deer is being hunted for the musk, something must be done in order to allow the deer to survive and participate in the food web.
The Dusky Musk Deer is nocturnal and most of their activities take place at night, dawn and dusk. This species is highly solitary. An individual of this species is not likely to live with any other deers although they have been known to let other female Dusky Musk Deer “babysit” their young. Territoriality is also another salient feature of Dusky Musk Deer especially for males.
Living in the mountainous areas that have gorges and forests, the agile Dusky Musk Deer possess the ability to climb trees and move freely even at the dangerous edge of a cliff or in the very thick bushes.
They are more ferocious than other members in the moschidae family especially in the case of males fighting for mates. In addition to low growls, these deers may attack their opponents with their tusks and strong forehooves. Black musk deers are also considerably vigilant. They do not return to the site where they get frightened or attacked before even it is in a previously established “safe” territory.
The Black Musk Deer has a number of predators. The lynx and the wolverine are two common predators of the Dusky Musk Deer. For example, some studies show that up to forty-three percent of the diet of some Lynx may consist of Dusky Musk Deer. The fact still remains that humans prey on the deer more than all of their natural predators combined. They are caught and killed by humans mainly for their musk glands, which are used as a base for man perfumes. Ethical concerns have led to the use of synthetic musk but this has not prevented the Dusky Musk Deer from being included onto the endangered list.
- Wang, Y. & Harris, R.B. (2008). Moschus fuscus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 29 March 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of endangered.
- Hoptner et.al., V (1988). Mammals of the Soviet Union: V1 Artiodactyla and Perissodactyla. Smithsonian Institution Libraries and The National Science Foundation.
- Nowak, Ronad M. (1999). Walker's Mammals of the World (6th ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press.
- Wilson, Don E. (2005). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. Johns Hopkins University Press.
- Geng, Shusheng; Shila Ma (2000). "Decline of musk deer in China and prospects for management". Environmental Conservation 27 (4): 323–325.
- Yang, Qisen; Xiuxiang Meng et.al. (2003). "Conservation status and causes of decline of musk deer (Moschus spp.)". Biological Conservation 109 (3): 333–342.