Endangered Species: Musk Deer Research Paper Example
1. Identify the species' scientific name, listing status, and a short summary ofwhat is known about the species.
Musk deer is a small animal with an average body length of 100cm and a height of 60-61 cm, at the shoulder level. Because of its long hind limbs, its movements resemble more like rabbit, than that of a deer. Seven species of musk deer are identified to date. The taxonomy of the species, is given below.
Moschus fuscus (native of Tibet, Vietnam, Tibet and listed endangered)
M.sibriricus (native of Tibet and listed as endangered)
M. moschferus (native of China and listed as threatnened)
M. chrysogaster (native of Himalaya and listed endangered)
M.berezovski (native of Vietnam and listed as endangered)
M. leucogaster (native of Burma, Vietnam, Tibet and listed as endangered)
M.cupreus (native of Kashmir and listed endangered)
These species are differentiated based on cranial measurement, colour of coat, biometric criteria and the altitude range in which they live. Musk deer has been spotted so far, in 13 countries, across South Asia, East Asia and parts of Russia. The hair coat of this deer is thick, bristly, and of variable colour. The coat colour of a majority of them are brown and mottled. The preferred habitat are highland and rugged mountain terrains with shrubby or forest vegetation. The diet of the animal are vegetations in the form of grasses and leaves. Musk deer are shy, elusive, solitary and mostly nocturnal animals. Female musk deer attains sexual maturity after 1 year of age, while male musk deer attain sexual maturity at 2 years of age. Gestation period of musk deer is 5 months and they are capable of producing kids once a year. Musk deer are preyed by leopards, lynx, wolfs and wild dogs.
The term ‘musk’, refers to a scented substance produced only by the male musk deer. Musk is a highly valued animal product, having application in perfume industry and in Chinese and Indian medicine. Musk is produced by a small gland located in a special pouch of skin in front of the preputial orifice of male deer. The size of the gland can vary from 4 cm in width to 6 cm in thickness. Other than musk deer, musk is also produced by plants and other animals. Hibiscus abelmoschantus is well known for its musky door. Among animals musk ox, musk duck, musk rat, musk tortoise and musk kangaroo can produce musk. However, musk from musk deer is far more famous than sources of musk and is the only animal musk used in perfume industry. Musk gland weighs around 20-52 gms, with a musk content of 15-30 gms. Musk is produced seasonally during the breeding season. In Himalayas this period is during May to July. During this time, the gland secretes a yellow milky secretion that gathers in the pouch of skin –“musk pod”. With time it ripens to reddish brown colour. When the musk is removed from the animal body, it further changes colour to black. ‘Grain musk’ refers to the granular musk excreted from the gland. Musk excreted in the deer’s urine, helps to attract female musk deer for mating. It also helps to mark territorial range. A substance called muskone is responsible for the musky fragrance. The musk is a complex odour, of which the sweet and nutty scent is preferred by the perfume industry. The fragrance is perceptible even after diluting the original musk to 3000 times. With the availability of artificial musk, musk from musk deer is no longer required in the perfume industry. If used, it is more of a luxury now in the perfume industry. Nevertheless, animal musk, it is still valued for its healing properties in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine. Apart from musk, male musk deer have other characteristic feature, like the large canine teeth, that protrudes from the upper jaw.
China and Russia has the largest musk deer population. The musk deer population in China is close to 6lac, while the population data in Russia is not available. However experts suggest that, poor socio-economic status of people in Russia has led to extensive poaching and illegal killing of musk deer and the musk deer population in Russia has reduced by 50%. The total global population of all musk deer is estimated to be less than 8 lac. No reliable data is available on past population of this species, nevertheless, wildlife expert suggest that the population declined initially and is presently stable in certain countries. In China and Russia, the population is showing a declining trend. (King)
2. Provide a history of how the species was recognized as being threatenedand the exact date it was listed. Give a detailed account of the kinds ofprotection plans being provided and give specific examples.
All the musk deer species were listed as endangered in the Appendices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, since 1979. Currently China and Russia has the highest population of musk deer. The musk deer was listed in the Red Data Book of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) in the year 2008. IUCN and WWF with cooperation from governments of different countries are taking initiatives to conserve musk deer and its habitat. Illegal poaching, hunting, illegal trade and musk deer habitat destruction are identified as the main reasons for decline in musk deer number. Conservation measures should be targeted in critical musk deer habitats situated in East Asia and South East Asia.
The primary initiative towards conserving musk deer, is by reducing the use of musk in perfume and traditional medicines. Natural musk can be effectively substituted by synthetic musk, or other compounds in perfume industry. Creating public awareness about the declining musk deer population and ill effects of musk trade can go a long way in prevent poaching and illegal trade. Accurate assessment of musk deer population and their conservation status will help in making appropriate conservation decision and in monitoring the progress of the conservation measures. Such initiative is especially needed in Russia, China and Mongolia, where a large musk deer population is present. The taxonomy of different musk deer species in this regions need to be differentiated and their numbers recorded. Understanding current market demands and surveying domestic markets in China, South Korea, India, Nepal, Vietnam, will help to prevent illegal trade at these places. Appropriate measure need to be taken to prevent poaching and hunting of wild musk deer. More innovative enforcement methods to prevent poaching, hunting and illegal trade are required. Though musk can be obtained from the deer without killing it, many musk deer are killed due to lack of proper trained personal who can harvest musk from live animals. Further the yield of musk from slaughtered animals are slightly high. Musk is produced only by male deer, in spite of this, many female and males that don’t produce musk are killed during the hunting and poaching activities. On an average 40 male deer are required to produce one Kg of musk. By encouraging sustainable use of musk, we can reduce musk deer slaughtering. Government should take initiatives in this direction by providing training in musk deer farming and harvesting of musk from live animals. China and Russia already have musk deer farm and are the largest exporter of musk since 1978. Regulating the trade of musk in non-range countries can safe guard musk deer population in their native habitat. Countries should pursue development of clear labelling for products containing musk. The consumers must be encouraged to use alternatives to wild musk. In an effort to ensure conservation of musk deer, European Union, imposed a ban on the import of musk in 1999. Musk deer conservation project based in Kadarnath Sanctuary, Uttar Pradesh, is an example of a successful project that prevented extinction of Himalayan musk deer. Deforestation activity by the villagers and extensive livestock grazing has caused destruction of musk deer habitat in this region. Habitat destruction is another important reason for decline in musk deer population. Reforestation and restriction on livestock in these protected areas will help in preventing musk deer population decline. (Hosetti)
3. Analyze and report on the species' political and social history, including the following aspects:
Musk deer are overexploited for musk. Musk is the most costly of all animals’ products. Price per gram varies between $30-$50. The earliest body of literature that reports the use of musk was found in China, during the period of Han dynasty (25-220 BC). An old Chinese dictionary dated 3BC, had musk deer citations in it. Chinese religious, medical and pharmacological manuscripts mention the use of musk. It is believed to protect ones spirits against evil influences. Chinese medicine uses musk in a wide range of medical formulation. There are over 160 formulation that contain musk. It has elaborate healing properties. The practitioners of Chinese and Indian medicine prefer musk from wild deer over synthetic musk (Green and Kattel). Though Chinese claim to use musk produced by deer reared in farms, the volume of musk traded exceeds the production estimated from farms, by many folds. Illegal poaching is very common in China. Sichuan State in China has the highest number of musk deer farms. Though male musk deer reared in captivity can produce more musk than wild male, the viability of these farms are less. Musk deer have high mortality rate in captivity. Most of the adult animals die of gastrointestinal infection, while pneumonia causes high mortality in young ones. Further male musk deer are used to solitary life in the wild, and tend to fight when reared as a herd in farm. To avoid fights these deer are kept in individual cages and this restricts their movement.
Hunting of musk deer is not prohibited in Russia. Under certain terms and regulations, the locals are allowed to hunt. However most of these regulation are unkempt, resulting in overexploitation of the musk deer. Russia traded close to, 400-450 kilograms of raw musk pods in the year 2000. This means nearly 17,000 to 20,000 musk deer are killed every year. Though hunting of musk deer is banned in Mongolia, close to 12,000 animals are poached between 1996- 2001. Musk from the Himalayan musk deer is the most valued of all musk. Nepal used to be the greatest exporter of this musk. It accounted to 8.7% of the total export of the country. The value of musk exported generated a revenue of $1.1million. Himalayan musk deer population was at the verge of extinction. In order to conserve this species, The National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1973 was passed, which made musk export illegal in Nepal. This law did little in reducing musk deer killing. On the other most of the trade is now done underground and it is difficult to keep tract on the number of animals killed. (News.nationalgeographic.com)
Habitat destruction is an important reason for decline in musk deer number. The Himalayan national park regulation, restricts grazing of livestock and deforestation in musk deer habitats. Annaporna Conservation Area project, 1987 was launched to prevent habitat destruction in China.
The challenge ahead is not only to prevent overexploitation of musk deer, but also to provide employment to villagers who are dependent on the musk trade. Musk deer protection would be fruitless, without the involvement of the local communities. For this to happen, the conservation programme must have clear social and economic benefits for the dependent communities. Ecotourism is one initiative that can help local communities and also encourages them to conserve the musk deer. Developing techniques to efficiently trap the animal and release it after collecting musk can help in subsistence level musk utilisation. By allowing the local communities to legitimately harvest musk, one can gain there support in policing protected areas from outsiders. Traditional Chinese medicine communities also encourage musk deer conservation and sustainable musk trade. Wild life trade monitoring network TRAFFIC and WWF recommended actions for better conservation and sustainable use of musk deer, in the 11th conference of WWF and TRAFFIC. Much to the dismay of these organisation, none of their recommendations are put into practise.
Summary: Musk deer is small member of the Moschidae family. It is seen scattered, in the terrains and high land of East Asia, South East Asia and Russia. The animal is overexploited for its musk. Musk is highly valued in the perfume industry and traditional medicines. Poaching, illegal trade and habitat destruction has greatly threatened the population of this species. Conservation enforcements are weak and often ignored by countries where musk deer occur. Musk deer and its habitat need to be protected, if one wishes to save this species and the fragile mountain ecosystem.
Green, Michael J.B., and Bijaya Kattel. 'Musk Deer: Little Understood, Even Its Scent'. Endangered Species Used In Traditional East Asian Medicine: Substitutes For Tiger Bone And Musk.. Hong Kong,: N.p., 1997. Print.
King, Anya H. The Musk Trade And The Near East In The Early Medieval Period. [Bloomington, Ind.]: Indiana University, 2007. Print.
Hosetti, B. B. Concepts In Wildlife Management. Delhi: Daya Publishing House, 2005. Print.
News.nationalgeographic.com,. 'Poachers Target Musk Deer For Perfumes, Medicines'. N.p., 2015. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
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