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Winter distribution and poaching of musk deer, Moschus chrysogaster and Moschus leucogaster in Jigme Dorji National Park, Bhutan

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Jigme Dorji National Park is home to 2 species of musk deer: Alpine (Moschus chrysogaster) and Himalayan musk deer (M. leucogaster). In summer months, they inhabit alpine areas and in winter, they are found in fir (Abies densa) forest. They are distributed within the altitudinal range of 3171 masl to 4327 masl in winter. The study on musk deer distribution and poaching was carried out in all the potential musk deer habitats under 6 range offices in the month of October to December 2016. A total of 400 snares were removed following 84 days of active patrol by the park staff. One male musk deer was released into the wild which was caught in the snares set around Chutey Goempa forest. Traditional snaring method (leg and neck snares) with barricade were adopted by the poachers. Nylon ropes were the primary material used as snares. During the entire patrol period, two poachers were apprehended under Lingzhi Range, while attempting to set snares for musk deer. They were fined as per the provisions set under Forest Act, 1995. Annual anti-poaching activities should be carried out and anthropogenic activity should be strictly monitored to protect this endangered species.
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ISSN: 2067-533X
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL
OF
CONSERVATION SCIENCE
Volume 9, Issue 1, January-March 2018: 193-198
www.ijcs.uaic.ro
WINTER DISTRIBUTION AND POACHING OF MUSK DEER,
MOSCHUS CHRYSOGASTER AND MOSCHUS LEUCOGASTER IN
JIGME DORJI NATIONAL PARK, BHUTAN
Pema DENDUP*, NAMGAY, Choki LHAM
Jigme Dorji National Park, Department of Forests and Park Services,
Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, Damji, Gasa, 14002, Bhutan
Abstract
Jigme Dorji National Park is home to 2 species of musk deer: Alpine (Moschus chrysogaster)
and Himalayan musk deer (M. leucogaster). In summer months, they inhabit alpine areas and
in winter, they are found in fir (Abies densa) forest. They are distributed within the altitudinal
range of 3171 masl to 4327 masl in winter. The study on musk deer distribution and poaching
was carried out in all the potential musk deer habitats under 6 range offices in the month of
October to December 2016. A total of 400 snares were removed following 84 days of active
patrol by the park staff. One male musk deer was released into the wild which was caught in
the snares set around Chutey Goempa forest. Traditional snaring method (leg and neck snares)
with barricade were adopted by the poachers. Nylon ropes were the primary material used as
snares. During the entire patrol period, two poachers were apprehended under Lingzhi Range,
while attempting to set snares for musk deer. They were fined as per the provisions set under
Forest Act, 1995. Annual anti-poaching activities should be carried out and anthropogenic
activity should be strictly monitored to protect this endangered species.
Keywords: Agriculture; Income; Musk deer; Patrolling; Poaching; Protected areas; Snares;
Introduction
Seven species of musk deer are known to exist as of today and all the species are
considered Endangered on the IUCN Red List except for Moschus moschiferus which is
vulnerable [1-3]. Musk deer are distributed along Arctic Circle in Russia to Asian countries
such as Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Korean Peninsula, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal,
Pakistan and Vietnam [4]. In Bhutan musk deer is listed in Schedule I of Forest and Nature
Conservation Act, 1995 and it is highly protected [5]. Musk deer are distributed along the
western, northern, central and eastern region of the country and it is found in six protected areas
(PA) [6]. Two species of musk deer roam the forests of Jigme Dorji National Park (JDNP).
Alpine musk deer (Moschus chrysogaster) and Himalayan musk deer (Moschus leucogaster),
both categorized as Endangered on IUCN Red List [1, 2, 7]. Musk deer (Moschus spp.) have
high economic importance and therefore, are highly endangered mammal species [8].
Population existence is threatened across its habitat due to deforestation, habitat fragmentation
and anthropogenic activities, such as poaching for its musk pod [9, 10]. Musk pod has high
commercial values and musk deer are over exploited. This has led to the decline in its
population. Musk remains to be one of the most expensive natural products and the values are
*Corresponding author: pemadndp@gmail.com
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calculated to be more than gold [11-13]. East and Southeast Asian are the major traders and
consumers of musk products [14]. Musk has been used in perfumes and in some Chinese
medicines [15]. The population decline has been aggravated by increased use of snares [16].
Musk deer develop latrine sites by defecating repeatedly at one particular site and such sites
serve functions for chemical communication [17]. Latrines are ecologically very important and
it is highly developed communication methods used by musk deer as they are confounded by
minimal visual contact, dense forest cover, solitary behavior and no vocalization [18-21]. Musk
deer are poached setting snares based on the location of latrine sites [17]. The collection of
timber, fodder, food, medicinal plants and livestock grazing inside PA by the local communities
has also aided the decline in musk deer population [22].
Conservation of these species inside JDNP is a huge challenge due to lack of funding,
inadequate and ineffective patrolling and highly porous park boundary. The aim of this study
was to ascertain the extent of musk deer poaching and to assess winter distribution in the park.
Materials and Methods
Study site
The study on musk deer distribution and poaching was initiated in all the 6 range offices
(Gasa, Laya, Lingzhi, Lunana, Ramina and Soe) of JDNP (Fig. 1). JDNP with an area of
4449km2is second largest PA in Bhutan and it is spread over northwest part of Bhutan. The
elevation changes from 1200 meters above sea level (masl) in south to 7314masl in the north.
There are about 1258 households living inside the park and fir (Abies densa) forest winter
suitable habitat of musk deer, alone contributes to about 11% of the park area (486 km2).
Fig. 1. Map of JDNP showing the surveyed locations.
Common plant species include fir (Abies densa), blue pine (Pinus wallichiana), birch
(Betula utilis), rhododendron (Rhododendron arboreum.), hemlock (Tsuga domusa), oak
(Quercus lamellosa), juniper (Juniperus recurva), spruce (Picea spinolusa), maple (Acer
campbelii), taxus (Taxus bacata), larch (Larix graffithiana) and chirpine (Pinus roxburghii). In
case of faunal species, the park supports snow leopard (Panthera uncia) red panda (Ailurus
fulgens), tiger (Panthera tigris), leopard (Pantheraparadus), goral (Naemorhedus goral), serow
(Capricornis sumatraensis), Himalayan black bear (Ursus thibetanus), barking deer (Munticus
THREATENED MEDICINAL PLANTS OF KANO FLORA AND THE NEED FOR URGENT CONSERVATION
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195
muntjak), and wild pig (Sus scrofa). This is the only PA probably in the world where one can
find two top predators tiger and snow leopard sharing same habitat [7].
Methodology
With the onset of seasonal migration, musk deer are more prone to poaching in the
woods than in the alpine habitat. While in the woods, poachers have all the advantage to set up
snares and kill musk deer. This study was initiated in October 2016 December 2016
coinciding seasonal migrations in the winter. The sites
were
identified
based
upon the
h
i
gh
number
of
musk d
ee
r
presence reported through various surveys
a
nd
camera
tr
a
pp
i
ng
exercise carried out by the park management.
In some case the sites were determined
through the information conveyed by the informants. Patrol team traversed through all the game
trails and upon the encounter of musk deer snares, the snares were dismantled and trap materials
destroyed along with the barricade. Live wildlife caught in the snares were released back into
the wild. Global Positioning System (Garmin GPS eTrex Vista HCX) was used to record
locations for future monitoring purposes.
Results
A total of 504 man-days were taken to comb the potential musk deer habitats (14 days x
6 men x 6 range office). Four hundred snares were dismantled and destroyed, 2 poachers
apprehended, 1 male musk deer and 2 male Himalayan monal (Lophophorus impejanus)
released into the wild. Most of the snares were freshly set (43% old traps versus 57% new traps)
along the altitudinal range of 3147 to 4100masl and majority of the snares were seen between
3600 to 3700masl. Maximum number of snares was removed from Gasa range and least from
Soe range (Table 1). Nylon ropes with the diameter of 3 to 5cm was the main material used as
snare. Except for the snares set under Ramina range which was neck trap, all other ranges had
leg snares.
Fig. 2. Number of snares along the altitudinal gradient.
Table 1. Information on snares removed under each range.
Name of Range
Type of trap
Alltitude range (m)
Gasa
Leg trap
3147 - 3972
Lingzhi
Leg trap
3649 - 3953
Lunana
Leg trap
3677 - 4048
Ramina
Neck trap
3172 - 3789
Laya
Leg trap
3174 - 4093
Soe
Leg trap
4100
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Discussion
Musk deer are generally found along the altitudinal range of 2500 to 4800masl [23]. In
winter season, musk deer in JDNP were found distributed along the altitudinal gradient of 3171
to 4327masl (Fig. 3). Their distribution was mostly within fir forest since lichens (a primary
winter food for the musk deer) were recorded plentiful in fir forest. The elevation range of 3600
to 3700masl was the most suitable winter habitat as the survey team recorded majority of musk
deer droppings within this altitudinal range. The same was also indicated by the maximum
number of snares set within this range. In Manaslu conservation area, from Nepal, A. Subedi et
al. [24] showed that altitude range of 3600 to 3800m is the most suitable altitudinal range.
Fig. 3. Patrol team of Gasa Range rescuing and releasing male musk deer
which was caught in the snares set by poachers.
The result from our current study revealed that Gasa range had the highest number of
snares. One of the main reasons for such finding could be related to easy accessibility with
many alternative entrance routes (Gasa, Ponjothang, Gayza, Zomina, Damji, Panikong,
Phuentshogang) to musk deer habitat. Gasa district is connected with un-paved road facilities
and with easy accessibility, the distance to the musk deer habitat is about a day walk or less
from the nearest road point.
Annual household income is also one of the major factor contributing to musk deer
poaching. Resident communities of the park earn enough income to support their family. Their
income comes from the sale of agriculture products, livestock products, medicinal plants, raw
material for incense and through the sale of Chinese caterpillar (Ophiocordyceps sinensis).
Chinese caterpillar contributes to major portion of annual income as it fetches high amount in
the auction yard. Local communities of the park do not involve in musk deer poaching as they
have strong religious sentiments towards both wild and domestic animals. People do not even
consume the meats of animals killed by wild predators. Non-resident communities of the park
are the main poachers who come and poach musk deer in JDNP. The park authority in the
previous years apprehended some poachers and all of them were identified to be non-resident
communities. These are the group of people with low level of income and their poor socio-
economic status is the driving factor behind musk deer poaching. They live in areas where
agriculture farming and livestock rearing do not bring much benefit.
With regard to other ranges, accessibility is the main issue. A minimum of two days
walk is required to get into the musk deer habitat and the poachers do not have alternate route.
With only one entrance route, poachers are under the high risk of getting caught by the park
officials. Under Lingzhi range, two poachers were caught while attempting to set snares for the
musk deer around Tsatugang forest area. Both were non-resident of the park and they were
fined as per the existing rules.
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In Soe range during the entire patrol period, the team had removed only one trap and the
team had recorded many musk deer evidences. In the past (>10 years) Soe range used to have
many poaching incidences. Finding of minimum poaching evidence is also directly related to
socio-economic status of the people. Some people residing around Soe range have diverted their
activity towards illegal trade of Red Sandalwood (Pterocarpus santalinus) across border to
Tibet which generated high income.
Other probable reasons related to musk deer poaching may be due to less amount of fine
mentioned in the forest rules. The fine amount is relatively less than what they supposedly earn
in the black market. For killing of musk deer 200,000.00Nu is imposed (Forest and Nature
Conservation Rules and Regulations of Bhutan 2017). On contrary, wildlife crime is a huge and
lucrative business and musk pods can fetch as much as 45000 USD per kilogram (2.2 pounds)
in international market [1]. Another most important factor contributing to the poaching of any
wildlife species is the lack of fund to conduct regular and organized patrolling.
Conclusion
Majority of the snares were fresh and they were set within the month of October.
Poachers are aware of the seasonal migrations of the musk deer and hence take advantage to
trap maximum musk deer. In order to apprehend poachers, patrolling effort should be focused
before the onset of the seasonal migration. Entire musk deer habitat within the park should be
intensively combed for the snares. Only male musk deer have musk pods but the use of snares
have high negative conservation implications. The snares not only traps target species but other
non-targeted species are also killed indiscriminately. Musk deer are endangered species and the
only method to save musk deer is through active patrolling of its habitat. Therefore, adequate
fund is required for extensive anti-poaching program and frontline staff should be trained with
technology-driven communication and surveillance system. In addition, local informants should
be deployed in every village and they should be given incentives for their information. Further,
study on movement ecology of musk deer in different locations should be carried out to help
park management develop area specific anti-poaching plan.
Acknowledgements
The study of musk deer distribution and poaching in Jigme Dorji National Park was
funded by Wildlife Trust of India (Indian nature conservation organization committed to the
service of nature). All the frontline staff of Gasa, Laya, Lingzhi, Lunana, Ramina and Soe range
who were involved in carrying out this study is very much appreciated and acknowledged for
their hard works. We would like to thank Mr. Lhendup Tharchen for his support and
collaboration with the donors. Mr. Yangka Tashi and Mr. Pema Dorji are also acknowledged
for their help during the development of study proposal.
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______________________________________
Received: July 15, 2017
Accepted: February 28, 2018
... Poaching ranks among the most significant threats to the musk deer. Poachers use various leg and neck snares made of nylon rope, to capture and kill individuals of the species (Dendup et al., 2018). Most poaching activities occur in the winter season (Dendup et al., 2018). ...
... Poachers use various leg and neck snares made of nylon rope, to capture and kill individuals of the species (Dendup et al., 2018). Most poaching activities occur in the winter season (Dendup et al., 2018). In the winter, musk deer descend near to human settlements, due to the heavy snowfall at higher elevations. ...
... The snares and traps may be less risky to carry and would allow the killing of the animals relatively unnoticed. A similar fact was reported by Dendup et al. (2018) and Thapamagar et al. (2018) as musk deers were killed by using leg and neck snares. There was a consensus that the poaching activities occurred seasonally, i.e. mostly in the winter season. ...
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The Alpine musk deer ( Moschus chrysogaster ) is classified as an “Endangered” species by the IUCN Red list category. We studied anthropogenic pressure on the musk deer population in the Khaptad National Park, Nepal. The questionnaire survey was applied from October to November 2018. Out of 111 respondents, 77% reported that the primary objective for poacher kills to the musk deer was musk pod, followed by skin (15%) and meat (8%). The major part of the killing tools represented traps; however, 23% respondents stated that poachers also use snares, 20% respondents reported guns, and 18% persons interviewed had no idea regarding the tool the poachers use to kill the musk deer. There was a significant difference between the male and female respondents regarding their opinion on musk deer conservation; male respondents exhibited more positive attitudes towards musk deer conservation than female respondents (Chi-squared 8.21; P < 0.05). People based conservation awareness programs and alternative income generating sources must be employed for long term musk deer conservation in the Nepal Himalayas.
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... Despite stringent legislation, high mammal species diversity in PAs, and a strong political will for nature conservation, our detection of local people, domestic livestock, foreign poachers, and forest fires reveal inherent threats to resident mammals. This finding reinforces local and regional threats to mammals from agricultural activities, livestock grazing, timber collection, poaching and illegal trading of wildlife parts, forest fire, and human-wildlife conflict (Dendup and Lham 2018;Dorji et al. 2018;Velho et al. 2012). Despite these anthropogenic threats, Bhutan's network of PAs and BCs still harbor a rich mammal community through the government's ability to reconcile biodiversity conservation goals with social and economic issues. ...
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More than 51% of Bhutan is in a protected area (PA) network and our study demonstrates its effectiveness in conserving large and medium mammal species. We conducted camera trapping in Bhutan’s PAs, biological corridors (BCs) and intervening non-protected areas (NPAs) to investigate the richness and diversity of mammals, and assess the network’s efficacy in protecting mammals. 1858 camera traps were deployed within 1129 5-km × 5-km grids over 536 days between 2014 and 2015, resulting in 148,598 trap-nights (mean = 80 traps-nights/camera) which yielded nearly 10 million photos (mean = 5368 photos/camera trap). Fifty-six mammal species (65% of Bhutan’s 86 medium and large terrestrial mammal species) representing 18 families within seven orders were identified, of which, 18 (32.16%) are listed as threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. There was a significant difference in mammal diversity between PAs, BCs, and NPAs (PERMANOVA test; p < 0.001; Pseudo-F = 6.40; unique perms = 9921), with the strongest difference between PAs and NPAs. Additionally, Hill’s numbers q = 0 (species richness), q = 1 (Shannon’s entropy index) and q = 2 (Simpson’s concentration index) revealed a higher mammal diversity in PAs compared to BCs and NPAs. Higher mammal diversity in PAs can be attributed to the added presence of threatened species, including the tiger Panthera tigris, red panda Ailurus fulgens, Asian elephant Elephas maximus, and golden langur Trachypithecus geei. However, BCs and NPAs share similar patterns of mammal diversity, and globally threatened species such as the Chinese pangolin Manis pentadactyla and Indian pangolin Manis crassicaudata were only detected in NPAs. Although Bhutan’s PA network is effective in conserving much of the country’s mammal diversity, realignment of some protected areas and biological corridors would ensure the long-term protection of several threatened mammal species.
... From the direct and indirect evidence collected from the study area, the lowest elevation range that musk deer inhabits in SWS is 3014 masl at Marganetoe and the highest altitudinal range is 4027 masl at Neyphu similar to distribution reported by Dendup et al (2018). The current findings on the distribution is comparable to the results of Yang et al. (2002) and Omar et al. (2008) who concluded that the musk deer occupies high alpine slopes between 3000-4000m elevation. ...
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A survey to understand distribution, status and conservation of Himalayan Musk Deer (Moschus chrysogaster) in Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary (SWS) was conducted in 2017 using camera traps. A pair of camera traps were installed in five habitat areas based on preliminary occurrence information gathered from local herders, forestry staff and unpublished reports. The camera traps were deployed in the field for five months from June through November 2017. Essential ecological parameters such as vegetation, herb species, slope aspect, elevation and indirect evidence of the species were collected from established transects. The survey results were used to develop musk deer habitat suitability and a species distribution model in MaxEnt. Findings indicate that the musk deer currently inhabit small areas and their distribution is more fragmented than in the past. Intensive competition from unregulated grazing, Non Timber Forest Products (NTFP) collection and poaching were observed as major threats to conservation. Initiation of transboundary landscape conservation programs, strengthening of patrolling forest resource collection and grazing are recommended for maintaining and ensuring viable population of the Himalayan Musk Deer in SWS.
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Throughout the Himalaya, mountain ungulates are threatened by hunting for meat and body parts, habitat loss, and competition with livestock. Accurate population estimates are important for conservation management but most of the available methods to estimate ungulate densities are difficult to implement in mountainous terrain. Here, we tested the efficacy of the recent extension of the point transect method, using camera traps for estimating density of two mountain ungulates: the group-living Himalayan blue sheep or bharal Pseudois nayaur and the solitary Himalayan musk deer Moschus leucogaster. We deployed camera traps in 2017–2018 for the bharal (summer: 21 locations; winter: 25) in the trans-Himalayan region (3,000–5,000 m) and in 2018–2019 for the musk deer (summer: 30 locations; winter: 28) in subalpine habitats (2,500–3,500 m) in the Upper Bhagirathi basin, Uttarakhand, India. Using distance sampling with camera traps, we estimated the bharal population to be 0.51 ± SE 0.1 individuals/km2 (CV = 0.31) in summer and 0.64 ± SE 0.2 individuals/km2 (CV = 0.37) in winter. For musk deer, the estimated density was 0.4 ± SE 0.1 individuals/km2 (CV = 0.34) in summer and 0.1 ± SE 0.05 individuals/km2 (CV = 0.48) in winter. The high variability in these estimates is probably a result of the topography of the landscape and the biology of the species. We discuss the potential application of distance sampling with camera traps to estimate the density of mountain ungulates in remote and rugged terrain, and the limitations of this method.
Chapter
This section presents discussions and recommendations for developing conservation strategy action plans for those critically endangered, endangered, under-represented, or lesser known species of wildlife species of animals. The information conveyed is largely derived from the results of various gap analyses of threatened species in Chap. 5 of this book. However, this chapter does not discuss those conservation strategies of wildlife species of animals already in place; the recommendation of conservation strategies for plant and other species is provided in Chaps. 7 and 8.
Technical Report
Distribution and habitat use by Musk Deer (Muschos crysogaster) in Wangchuck Centennial National Park.
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Musk deer is threatened by poaching for musk pod and habitat fragmentation. The species is endangered within its distribution range including Nepal, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, Mongolia, China, Korea and Russia. In Nepal, the deer is confined to protected areas throughout the Himalaya. It is a solitary and shy forest dweller with a crepuscular activity pattern. It prefers and repeatedly uses one or more specific defecation sites. Such behaviour is believed to function in chemical communication among individuals. This study was conducted in Neshyang valley in the Annapurna Conservation Area, and aims to evaluate how musk deer selects the latrine site in its habitat taking into account both biotic and abiotic factors. In order to achieve this aim, we laid out a total of 23 transects of 500 m length throughout the study area. Within each transect, 20 m × 20 m nested structured quadrats were located at an interval of 100 m. We found that musk deer preferred to use latrine sites in fir forest while they avoid both blue pine forest and open areas. Furthermore, distance from water sources and mixed forests have a crucial role in selecting latrine sites by musk deer.
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Population status, habitat use and threats to conservation of Alpine musk deer (AMD; Moschus chrysogaster) were studied at 13 sites between 2500 and 4500 m a.s.l. in Uttarakhand Himalayas (India) from October 2003 to December 2006. Forest trails were monitored to estimate the abundance of AMD. Data on current status and habitat use of AMD and associated ungulate species were collected by sampling of pellet groups. The relative abundance of AMD in terms of encounter rate (groups/km) and pellet groups density (pellet groups/ha) was highest in Saukherk (1.3 groups/km and 58.8 ± 8.9 pellet groups/ha, respectively). AMD pellet group numbers-habitat assessment matrix was subjected to principal component analysis to determine ecological gradients governing spatial occurrence of AMD. The first two principal components accounted for 23.7% of variation and these were related to shrub-layer attributes and livestock dung abundance, grazing and grass density, respectively. The discriminant function analysis was performed to determine spatial ecological separation between AMD and other sympatric ungulate species. Altitude, shrub density, distance to human habitation and herb density were key factors which separate musk deer from other species. Poaching of AMD for musk gland emerged as principal threat to species across sites. Elimination of poaching, strengthening the management of existing protected areas (PA) and involvement of local communities are recommended for long-term conservation of AMD.
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The Himalayan musk deer, Moschus chrysogaster inhabits the forests of Neelum Valley, Jammu and Kash-mir, including Machiara National Park. A study was made to ascertain the extent of trade in Himalayan musk and to assess the hunting pressure and present conservation status of the population of Himalayan musk deer. Musk deer are killed to excise the musk pod found in mature males between the genital organs and the umbilicus. According to information gathered from nine major professional musk traders, 26 (65%), 31 (73.8%) and 44 (97.77%) musk pods were collected illegally during 2000–02 respectively. However, cumulative total number of musk deer killed during 2000– 02 was at least 40, 42 and 45 respectively, as revealed by data obtained from 209 hunters. Data show that though male musk deer are killed for musk pod collection , females are also killed in illegal harvesting. There is limited use of musk as traditional medicine for pulmonary diseases in the area. However, poaching activity fetches US $275–310 per musk pod; hence musk trade poses a major threat to the survival of the species. Population of Himalayan musk deer is on a rapid decline because of hunting pressure and destruction of natural habitat due to nomadic and local grazing, along with unsustainable commercial logging and extraction of medicinal plants by the government as well as by the locals. Measures to conserve the species are outlined within the framework of sustainable use of living resources for development.
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The Himalayan musk deer (Moschus chrysogaster) is an endangered species found in the Himalayan region of Nepal. This research was conducted in the Manaslu Conservation Area to explore the deer's general population status, distribution, habitat preference and conservation threats. Musk deer are distributed within the altitudinal range of 3128-4039 m spanning 35.43 km2, with the most potential habitat in the Prok VDC (Village Development Committee). Within this area the Musk deer highly preferred altitudes between 3601-3800 m, with a 21-30° slope, 26-50% crown cover and 26-50% ground cover. There are significant differences in the use of different habitat types in terms of altitude, slope, crown cover, ground cover and topography. The preferred tree species were Abies spectabilis, Betula utilis and Rhododendron species. Poaching of deer for their musk is the major conservation threat.
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In view of its solitary behaviour and need for dense cover, the musk deer probably relies chiefly on olfaction for communication. The various forms of scent‐marking behaviour include defaecation at latrines by both sexes and, in the case of males, the secretion of musk and pasting with the caudal gland.The use of 120 latrines was monitored for periods of up to 27 months in the Kedarnath Sanctuary, North India. Latrines occurred throughout animals' ranges and were used most frequently during the autumn rut. There is limited evidence that in summer musk deer defaecated wherever they happened to be rather than at latrines, which were seldom used at this time of year. That latrines are regularly used for purposes of marking, rather than to orientate animals, is strongly supported by the musk deer's ability accurately to locate snow‐covered sites. Droppings were sometimes covered with debris, more often in autumn than in other seasons. The covering of droppings appears to be a characteristic of adults and probably helps to keep the pellets moist and smelly. It is suggested that some latrines were used exclusively by one animal whereas others were used by more than one animal. The extent to which latrines appear to have been shared corresponds with the degree of overlap between animals' ranges.There is some evidence that musk, which is synthesized before the rut, is conveyed in the urine of males. Snow stained with urine from males usually had a sweet scent and was pink or red, whereas that stained with urine from females never had a noticeable scent and was always amber in colour.Likely constraints influencing the spatial pattern of scent‐marking are considered. The paper concludes with a discussion of the role of scent‐marking in the musk deer.
Article
The present and past distributions of the Himalayan musk deer south of the Himalayan divide are compared. The overall range has changed little during the 20th century but severe pressures, caused by over-exploitation of the species for its musk and habitat destruction, have reduced the population to scattered pockets throughout its former distribution.The maximum area of habitat potentially available to musk deer on the south side of the Himalaya is estimated to be in the region of 50 000 km2. This amount of habitat may be capable of supporting about 200 000 musk deer but more likely it harbours only about 30 000 animals, assuming that the overall density of the Himalayan population is much the same as that of the Russian population (i.e. 0·6 animals km−2) which has experienced similar hunting pressures. An evaluation of the current international trade in musk indicates that the Himalayan population could reach a critically low level if present hunting pressures continue unabated. It is provisionally estimated that at least 4000 adult males are killed each year. This could mean that from 18% to 53% of the Himalayan population is harvested annually, depending on the extent to which hunting methods are indiscriminate of the age and sex of animals.Measures to conserve the species are outlined within the framework of sustainable use of living resources for development. Particular emphasis is given to the possibility of harvesting musk from wild animals for the benefit of local people living at subsistence level in remote high-altitude regions of the Himalaya.
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
  • R Harris
  • Moschus Chrysogaster
R. Harris, Moschus chrysogaster, The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T13895A61977139. www.iucnredlist.org.