Chinese and Dwarf Forest Musk Deer (Moschus berezovskii) in China and Vietnam and Hopefully Laos

by DerdriuMarriner

The dwarf forest musk deer is endangered. The petite, skittish deer lives in China and Vietnam. But agro-industrialists and musk-hunters threaten the musk deer’s forest habitats.

It can be advantageous for a wild animal to be elusive and reclusive. Skittishness and speed deter predators. They generally go along with:
• Environmental savviness;
• Survival smarts.

But rapidity, reclusiveness, and ruse have their downsides. They make it difficult for wildlife-loving amateurs, officials, and specialists to help. Food and habitat preferences already may be known to nature-friendly activists and educators. But population sustainability means knowing how to:
• Ensure an endangered animal’s biological and distributional needs;
• Measure a wild species’ numbers and occurrences.

Conservation-minded agencies and governments must customize and generalize wildlife protection and research. But for the dwarf forest musk deer, they need to:
• Determine accurate tallies for China and Vietnam;
• Discover whether populations survive in Laos.

Chinese Dwarf Forest Musk Deer homelands: Lugu Lake, alpine lake with surface elevation of 8,809 feet (2,685 meters), is highest lake in Yunnan Province ~

Border between Ninglang County of Yunnan Province and the Yanyuan County of Sichuan province occurs mid-lake.
North West Yunnan Plateau, southwestern China
North West Yunnan Plateau, southwestern China

 

Wildlife-loving amateurs and professionals face the daunting challenge of remembering a number of names for all of the world’s known animal and plant species. Non-scientific, popular, and traditional parlance gives faunal and floral species the common name, of which there may be different expressions across and within languages. For example, the Chinese and dwarf forest musk deer has not only the above-mentioned common name in English but also equivalents and translations in the languages of such countries as:

  • China (林麝);
  • Russia (Кабарга Березовского);
  • Sweden (Låglandsmyskdjur);
  • Vietnam (Hươu xạ lùn).

Common names may exist in still more languages (such as Laotian). The above-mentioned list specifies those which contribute to the species’ modern homelands and taxonomies.

 

Fauna and flora enthusiast Carl Linnaeus (May 23, 1707 – January 10, 1778) is credited with assigning Moschus as genus name for musk deer:

1982 bronze sculpture of Carl Linnaeus by Robert Berks (born 1922)
Chicago Botanic Garden, Cook County, northeastern Illinois
Chicago Botanic Garden, Cook County, northeastern Illinois

 

The Chinese, English, Greek, Latin, Russian, Swedish, and Vietnamese languages get credit for relaying information regarding the Chinese and dwarf forest musk deer over the last 250+ years. The moschid (musk-making, musk-releasing deer) has as the binomial (“two-name”), Greco-Latin, scientific, taxonomic designation Moschus berezovskii. The first-mentioned name -- the genus -- honors pioneering ecology and taxonomy in 1758 by Carl Linnaeus (May 23, 1707 – January 10, 1778), as:

  • Animal and plant enthusiast from the village of Råshult in Sweden’s bog-, forest-, lake-rich Småland province;
  • Biologist;
  • Botanist;
  • Physician;
  • Zoologist.

The species represents artistic and scientific endeavors in 1929 by Konstantin Konstantinovich Flerov (February 4, 1904 – July 26, 1980), as:

  • Doctor of biological sciences;
  • Painter, sculptor, sketcher;
  • Palaeontologist;
  • Zoologist.

 

Species name of Chinese Dwarf Forest Musk Deer honors Mikhail Mikhailovich Berezovsky (1848 – 1912), who participated as botanist, ethnographer, geographer, and zoologist in 14 expeditions, beginning in 1876, to China and Central Asia.

geographer and ethnographer
Михаил Михайлович Березовский
Михаил Михайлович Березовский

Subspecies name of caobangis recognizes native presence of Dwarf Forest Musk Deer in Vietnam's northeastern province of Cao Bằng Province:

They now exist as rare shadows in their homelands in karst landscape of northern Vietnam, where they have been heavily hunted for medicinal uses ~ Bản Giốc Waterfalls at Vietnam-China International Border
Cao Bằng Province, northeastern Vietnam
Cao Bằng Province, northeastern Vietnam

 

Scientists allow expansion into trinomial taxonomies. Name number three gets called the subspecies. Not all of the world’s known species enjoy subdivision from genus and species to subspecies. Not all musk deer species exhibit trinomialism. But the Chinese and dwarf forest musk deer’s tripartite identification recognizes bio-geographical and morphological (external, internal form and structure) subtleties for:

  • Moschus berezovskii berezovskii -- in Qinghai, Sichuan, Tibet -- as nominate (“first-named”);
  • M.b. bijiangensis -- in northwest Yunnan -- per Y. Wang and C. Li, 1993;
  • M.b. caobangis -- in China (Guangdong, Guangxi, Yunnan), southern Vietnam -- per Dao Van Tien, 1969;
  • M.b. yanguiensis -- Gansu, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Ningxia, Shaanxi, Yunnan-Guizhou -- per Y. Wang and S. Ma, 1993.

 

Subspecies of yanguiensis recognizes native presence of Chinese Dwarf Forest Musk Deer in Yunnan and Guizou provinces in southwestern China:

Agile, skittish Chinese Dwarf Forest Musk Deer are undaunted by southwestern China's altitudinous, precipitous habitats.
Dêqên Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, northwestern Yunnan, southwestern China
Dêqên Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, northwestern Yunnan, southwestern China

 

China claims all four subspecies. Only the smallest subspecies defers to life cycles and natural histories in:

  • Southern Laos (hopefully);

  • Southern Vietnam.

Each subspecies individualizes:

  • Bio-geographies;

  • Physiques.

All four manifest:

  • Arched backs;
  • Big eyes;
  • Longer, stronger, thicker hind-limbs;
  • Multiple scent glands;
  • Olive-brown bodies whose winter hair is coarser, less spotted and streaked grey-white or yellow-orange, and longer;
  • Rabbit-like ears;
  • Shorter, thinner, weaker fore-limbs;
  • Two-hooved lower hoof, two-hooved upper dewclaw per foot.

Their dentition (arrangement and number of teeth) sports:

  • 4 canines, 12 premolars, 12 molars equally distributed between lower and upper jaws;

  • 6 incisors evenly divided between the left and right lower jaw.

 

Chinese or Dwarf Forest Deer (Moschus berezovskii) is an endangered species of musk deer with homelands in China and Vietnam:

Populations of the skittish deer are hoped to be surviving in Laos.
Kunming Natural History Museum of Zoology, Kunming, Yunnan Province, southwestern China
Kunming Natural History Museum of Zoology, Kunming, Yunnan Province, southwestern China

 

Females in all four Chinese and dwarf forest musk deer subspecies become sexually mature at 24 months. During an expected 20-year lifespan, she delivers annual single -- weighing 18.48 - 18.66 ounces (524 – 529 grams) -- or twin births after gestating 6.5 months. Newborns drink milk the first 3 – 4 months. They physically mature to:

  • Lengths of 35.43 inches (90 centimeters);

  • Shoulder-heights of 19.69 – 23.62 inches (50 – 60 centimeters);

  • Weights of 28.66 – 33.07 pounds (13 – 15 kilograms).

Vietnam's subspecies models the lowest above-mentioned ranges whereas the yanguiensis subspecies (of Gansu, Guizhou, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Ningxia, Shaanxi) and the nominate and northwest Yunnan subspecies respectively occupy intermediate and uppermost limits.

 

Predator of Chinese Dwarf Forest Musk Deer: Beech Marten (Martes foina), a carnivorous mammal with terrestrial preferences but arboreal tree climbing skills:

skeleton of agile beech marten hints at acrobatic abilities
Muséum de Toulouse, Midi-Pyrénées region, southwestern France
Muséum de Toulouse, Midi-Pyrénées region, southwestern France

 

Subspecies survival demands:

  • Climbing trees;

  • Eluding foxes, leopards, lynxes, martens, people, wolves;

  • Ingesting bark, buds, foliage, grasses, lichens, mosses, twigs;

  • Scaling steep, stony, 20°-inclined slopes;

  • Scent-marking territorial ranges of 12.36 – 24.71 acres (5 – 10 hectares).

The Chinese and dwarf forest musk deer finds what sustains healthy populations:

  • At altitudes 6,561.68 – 12,467.19 feet (2,000 – 3,800 meters) above sea level;

  • In broad-leaved, coniferous, or mixed forests and shrublands;

  • With monthly configurations of 52.48°F (11.38°C) in temperature, 4.26 inches (108.26 millimeters) in precipitation, 35.16 inches (893.09 millimeters) in evapotranspiration.

Appropriate habitat is critical because of:

  • The lack of offensive, self-defensive antlers;

  • The possession of non-defensive, non-offensive, tusk-like upper canines.

 

Chinese Dwarf Musk Deer habitats include steep slopes, easily scaled by nimble artiodactyls (even-toed ungulates):

Đèo Mã Pì Lèng (Ma Pi Leng Pass), connecting Đồng Văn and Mèo Vạc in karstic Hà Giang Province
Hà Giang Province, northernmost Vietnam
Hà Giang Province, northernmost Vietnam

Conclusion

 

It can be harmful and helpful to be admired for physical attributes. The admiration theoretically encourages protective agendas. But it also has the possibility of fomenting reckless pursuits of the object of disrespectful, mismanaged desires. For example, the Chinese and dwarf forest musk deer is renowned worldwide for:

  • Delectable flesh;

  • Musky releases perfect for incenses, medicines, perfumes;

  • Trophy tusks;

  • Warm fur.

Human population increases and territorial expansions presently but not necessarily lead to:

  • Declining wildlife;

  • Decreasing wilderness.

Growing urban and shrinking wild interfaces nevertheless need not be so people-friendly and wildlife-unfriendly. China's experiments with no-kill, non-maiming musk farming show that all perspectives can be honored and reconciled with:

  • Environmental education;

  • Governmental protection;

  • Scientific research;

  • Wildlife-loving activism.

 

Moschus berezovskii:

"Le Pygmée" illustration by Jean Gabriel Pretre (1780 - 1845)
F. Cuvier, Dictionnaire des sciences naturelles (1816-1829)
F. Cuvier, Dictionnaire des sciences naturelles (1816-1829)

Acknowledgment

 

My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.

 

Location of Laos' northernmost province, Phôngsali, with Vietnam to the east and China to the north and west, makes it an excellent, logical transition zone for Chinese Dwarf Musk Deer with nativity in southwestern China and northern Vietnam:

Concerned conservationists hold out hope for survival of a presumed population of Chinese Dwarf Forest Musk Deer in northern Laos.
Phôngsali, northernmost Laos
Phôngsali, northernmost Laos

Sources Consulted

 

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Bisby, F.A.; Roskov, Y.R.; Orrell, T.M.; Nicolson, D.; Paglinawan, L.E.; Bailly, N.; Kirk, P.M.; Bourgoin, T.; Baillargeon, G.; and Ouvrard, D. (red.). 2011. "Moschus berezovskii Fletov, 1929." Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2011 Annual Checklist. Reading, UK. Retrieved December 13, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.catalogueoflife.org/annual-checklist/2011/details/species/id/6903816

“Chinese Forest Musk Deer (Moschus berezovskii).” ARKive.org: Species > Mammals. Retrieved December 13, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.arkive.org/chinese-forest-musk-deer/moschus-berezovskii/image-G128081.html

“Chinese Forest Musk Deer (Moschus berezovskii).” iNaturalist.org: Observations > Species. California Academy of Sciences. Retrieved December 13, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/42142-Moschus-berezovskii

“Chinese Forest Musk Deer Pictures and Facts.” The Website of Everything: Animals > Mammals > Artiodactyla > Moschidae > Moschus. Retrieved December 13, 2014.

  • Available at: http://thewebsiteofeverything.com/animals/mammals/Artiodactyla/Moschidae/Moschus/Moschus-berezovskii.html

Cuvier, Fréderic. 1816 - 1829. Dictionnaire des sciences naturelles: Planches. 2e partie: règne organisé. Zoologie, Mammiféres. Paris: F.G. Levrault.

  • Available via Biodiversity Heritage Library at: http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/24392850

Dao Van Tien. 1985. Scientific Results of Some Mammals Surveys in North Vietnam (1957-1971).
Hanoi, Vietnam: Scientific and Technical Publishing House.

Dao Van Tien. 1978. "Sur une collection de mammiferes du Plateau de Moc Chau (Province de So'n-la, Nord-Vietnam)." Mitteilungen aus dem Zoologische Museum in Berlin 54:377-391.

“Dwarf Musk Deer.” Earth’s Endangered Creatures: Species Profiles > Asia. Retrieved December 13, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.earthsendangered.com/profile.asp?view=all&ID=3&sp=735

Environment and Development Desk, DIIR, CTA. 21 January 2014. “Musk Deer.” Tibet Nature Environmental Conservation Network. Retrieved December 13, 2014.

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Finn, Frank. n.d. The Wild Beasts of the World. Illustrated with 100 Reproductions in Full Colours from Drawings by Louis Sargent, Cuthbert E. Swan, and Winifred Austin. Volume Two. London: T.C. & E.C. Jack.

  • Available via Biodiversity Heritage Library at: http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/19080293

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Groves, C.P. 2011. "Family Moschidae (Musk-Deer)." In Handbook of the Mammals of the World. Volume 2: Hooved Mammals edited by D.E. Wilson and R.A. Mittermeier. Barcelona, Spain: Lynx Edicions.

Groves, C.P.; and Grubb, P. 1987. "Relationships of Living Deer." Pp. 1-40 in Biology and Management of the Cervidae edited by C. Wemmer. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.

 

Groves, C. P.; Yingxiang, W.; and Grubb, P. 1995. "Taxonomy of Musk-Deer, Genus Moschus (Moschidae, Mammalia)." Acta Theriologica Sinica 15(3):181-197.

 

Grubb, P. 2005. "Artiodactyla." Pp. 637-722 in Mammal Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd Edition) Edited by D.E. Wilson and D.M. Reeder. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

 

Grubb, P. 1982. "The Systematics of Sino-Himalayan Musk Deer (Moschus), with Particular Reference to the Species Described by B.H. Hodgson." Saeugetierkundliche Mitteilungen. 30:127–135.

"Moschus berezovskii: Chinese Forest Musk Deer." Encyclopedia of Life. Retrieved December 13, 2014.

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Moschus berezovskii Flerov, 1929.” ITIS Report: Taxonomic Serial No. 625038. Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved December 13, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=625038

“Musk Deer.” I Love India.com: Wildlife in India > Indian Wild Animals > Deer. Retrieved December 13, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.iloveindia.com/wildlife/indian-wild-animals/deer/musk-deer.html

Myers, P.; Espinosa, R.; Parr, C.S.; Jones, T.; Hammond, G.S.; and Dewey, T.A. 2014. "Moschus berezovskii: Chinese Forest Musk Deer (Online)." The Animal Diversity Web. University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. Retrieved December 13, 2014.

  • Available at: http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Moschus_berezovskii/classification/

Nowak, R.M. 1999. Walker’s Mammals of the World. Sixth edition. Baltimore, MD; and London, England: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Pickrell, John. 7 September 2004. “Poachers Target Musk Deer for Perfumes, Medicines.” National Geographic.com: News. Retrieved December 13, 2014.

  • Available at: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/09/0907_040907_muskdeer.html

Rue, Dr. Leonard Lee III. 2003. The Encyclopedia of Deer: Your Guide to the World's Deer Species, Including Whitetails, Mule Deer, Caribou, Elk, Moose, and More. Stillwater MN: Voyageur Press.

Smith, A.; and Xie, Y. 2008. The Mammals of China. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Su, B.; Wang, Y.X.; Lan, H.; Wang W.; and Zhang, Y. P. 2001. "Phylogenetic Study of Complete Cytochrome b Genes in Musk Deer (Genus Moschus) Using Museum Samples." Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 12(3):241-249.

Wang, Y. & Harris, R.B. 2008. "Moschus berezovskii." The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. Retrieved December 13, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/full/13894/0

Wang, Y.; Ma, S.; and Li, C. 1993. "The Taxonomy, Distribution and Status of Forest Musk Deer in China." Pp. 22-30 in Deer of China. Biology and Management, edited by N. Ohtaishi and H.-I. Sheng. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier.

Yang, Q. S.; Meng, X.X.; Xia, L.; and Lin Feng, Z.J. 2003. "Conservation Status and Causes of Decline of Musk Deer (Moschus spp.) in China." Biological Conservation 109:333-342.

 

Gem-like native landscape of Moschus berezkovii: Greatest extent of Chinese Dwarf Forest Musk Deer's homelands occurs in southwestern China ~

Terraced fields of Longsheng Rice Terraces were mostly built about 6.5 centuries ago
Longsheng County, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region (GZAR), South Central China
Longsheng County, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region (GZAR), South Central China
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

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Dragons Backbone rice terraces, Longsheng, Guangxi Province, southwestern China: photo by Christian Kober

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DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 12/13/2014, DerdriuMarriner
 
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