Online chat dated 18 November 2007
“The Himalayan Musk Deer
Members in the chat room
Dr Sathya Kumar
Welcome to IWC chat on 18th Nov.2007
The topic is "The Himalayan Musk Deer"
Dr. SathyaKumar from Wildlife Institute of India, Dehra Dun will be moderating the chat
SSKHMD Good Evening Dr. Susan, I am ready to moderate
Good Evening Dr Sathya Kumar
SSKHMD I visited the chat archives and found them very interesting
Till others join in, may be you can give a brief introdn
SSKHMD OK I will do that
Our membership base is varied people from varied walks varied interests So new perspectives come up in the chats
Hi, im Apoorva, hopefully, I’m on time!
Apoorva thank you. so can we start?
SSKHMD Please go ahead
Apoorva Thank you Sir
Apoorva Moschus chrysogaster and Moschus fuscus are two distinct races Sir?
Apoorva as in, the Black Musk Deer is a race of the same species?
SSKHMD Musk deer taxonomy is changing. We have four species of musk deer, Moschus chyrsogaster is the Himalayan musk deer
Apoorva right sir
Moschus fuscus is the Black Musk deer
Apoorva and the other 2?
SSKHMD The other two species are the Siberian Musk deer M. moschiferus and the Dwarf Musk deer M. berezovskii
Apoorva the latter 2 species are found in India?
SSKHMD The Himalayan musk deer is further classified into two subspecies, M.c.chyrsogaster and M.c.leucogaster
In India we have the Himalayan Musk deer and the Black Musk deer. The Dwarf MD may also be
Apoorva what are the differences between M.c.chrysogaster and M.c.leucogaster?
SSKHMD Within India, the Himalayan Musk Deer (HMD) is distributed all along the souther side of the Greater Himalaya from 2,500m to
'treeline' from J & K to Arunachal Pradesh
Minor differences probably the coat colour (leuco = white)
and the threat to these Deer that arises from the demand for musk-what is your opinion on that?
SSKHMD Genetic studies may reveal whether they are subspecies or species
Apoorva excluding Ladakh right?
Has there been a census of musk deer in India?
SSKHMD For centuries, Musk deer has been exploited by man for its ' musk' used as medicine in indigenous medicine systems and in perfumery
SSKHMD Poaching for musk, continues to the major threat to this species and has led to local extinctions and declining populations through
out its distribution range
Apoorva and has the IUCN upgraded its status? Or, is it still at lower risk?
SSKHMD Dr. Susan, there has been no estimation of musk deer population in India, only a rough estimate of about 30,000 made by Dr. Green
SSKHMD Musk deer is listed as 'vulnerable' by the IUCN and listed in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act and also in
Appendix II of CITES
Apoorva what are the main problems that the species faces? locally? globally?
SSKHMD Apoorva, the HMD is found only in the south of the main Himalaya. In the Trans-Himalaya (Ladakh, Lahul & Spiti and North Sikkim)
it is absent
Main problems are poaching for the illegal trade in musk and habitat loss and habitat degradation
Apoorva right. thank you for that.
What is a rough estimation now? any official figures?
Apoorva what is it's main habitat? sub-alpine oak and rhododendron forests? alpine scrub and meadows and upper temperate oak forests?
SSKHMD No official figures and no one has made a rough estimation. I am not attempting any estimates as I do not have any idea about
the musk deer density or population in the eastern Himalaya
SSKHMD Musk deer is found in the upper temperate, sub alpine and alpine habitats, but the optimal habitats are the alpine scrub and
SSKHMD Welcome Commoner
COMMONER BUT HARDLY EVER SEEN
COMMONER so the issues around wildlife preservation remain the same
SSKHMD Commoner, Musk deer prefers to remain in dense undergrowth (Rhododendron campanulatum or montane bamboo) during the day and comes
out to feed during dawn, dusk or at night. You can see them if you make some effort in its habitat
COMMONER Poaching goes on at that levels too
Apoorva sorry. got logged off.
SSKHMD It is difficult to sight musk deer as it is a shy, solitary and cryptic animal - May be it has become like that as it has been
harassed by man all the time
SSKHMD Protection levels have gone up in some areas particularly in the form of anti-poaching patrols, intelligence network and participation
of the local communities
Apoorva but as the situation of climate change is grave, is it's habitat not under more stress than it already was?
COMMONER What are the 3 things that sskhmd would wish common people to do so that poaching stops
SSKHMD In many areas, protection is average or even low which has resulted in habitat loss, habitat degradation and poaching
what is the temperature range for the survival of the HMD?
Climate change may make these animals remain at higher levels all the time- a blessing in disguise since poachers need to scale higher mountains
COMMONER The fact that many beauty aids sell in the name of musk itself may be egging some people on to poach
Apoorva yes, Dr,Susan, but higher the ground gets, lesser the vegetation. Wat about that?
SSKHMD 1. General Public Awareness about the species nationally and internationally 2. Reduce habitat loss and habitat degradation 3.
Put Pressure on a few countries to stop the musk trade and its use in medicines
Lichen is what they eat and this is available at higher levels too?
Apoorva Undoubtedly this must be a case similar to that of Tiger parts right? Superstition leading to Poaching? Musk causing the HMD its life.
SSKHMD I believe that climate change may make these animals move higher only in undisturbed areas
COMMONER Is there any possibility of weaning
away the users of musk perfumes and beauty products
Apoorva Yes, but dont they get affected by the temp. fluctuations that climate change will bring? i mean, not food wise, but total
Dr Sathya, between Chiru and Musk deer, which animal would you say, is more endangered due to poaching?
SSKHMD Good News is that Natural Musk has now been substituted with Sysnthetic Musk in Perfumes and beauty products
SSKHMD But the problem is that natural musk is used in oriental, siddha, ayurveda and unani medicine systems
COMMONER Yes but poachers do not know that. I suppose selling products by saying these are musk may help
COMMONER I meant banning sale/marketing of products by labeling these musk
COMMONER Banning of shahtoosh shawls does seem to have had some impact, for example
SSKHMD Chiru poaching is widely detected and its products (shatoosh) are getting confiscated and hence more in news. But news about
musk deer poaching and smuggling is rarely heard although it takes place rampantly
Apoorva a ban in this country, proves hardly worth its meaning. no one follows it, or bothers to acknowledge it. tiger parts have been
banned,. but illegal trade is no 2 steps ahead.
SSKHMD The international musk trade is over 350 kg of which over 80% is for Japan where it is used in medicine (largely aphrodisiac).
China is the largest exporter
SSKHMD China exports over 200 kg of musk stating that much of it is from farmed musk deer, but most of it reaches the illegal market
in the form of 'pod' which is from the wild musk deer that are killed
COMMONER Yes it will need to be banned worldwide
Susan Is China breeding musk deer like they are breeding tigers?
SSKHMD China has captive musk deer from which musk is extracted without killing them - but the quantity is less, quality will obviously
be poor, and the cost-benefit ratios also
Has there been success in breeding them anywhere else in the world?
SSKHMD Musk deer are delicate animals and have not faired well in captivity. Apart from China, Russia has been successful to some extent.
In India, we have two centers - one at Dharamghar (Almora) and one at Kanchulakharakh near Tungnath (Chamoli) - totalling about 15 animals
Apoorva if they are delicate animals, will they not respond negatively to sudden impact on their habitat?
SSKHMD In the wild, musk deer feeds on a variety of grasses, herbs, forbs, leaves of trees & shrub, montane bamboo, lichen, moss etc.
but in small quantities of all of these (mixed feeder) which helps it to be produce good quality musk and fair well in adverse steep and cold mountaineous terrain. the same is not possible for animals in captivity.
SSKHMD Musk deer are very agile and well adapted to live in steep and rugged terrain including peak winter when they do not migrate
to middle or lower altitudes like other animals
Musk is the curse of these poor deer, just like tusk is the curse of elephants
SSKHMD Apoorva, if habitats degrade due to heavy livestock grazing and other anthropogenic pressures, musk deer is forced to move away
to poor quality habitats which results in population decline
Apoorva absolutely, anything naturally beautiful, these poachers run after!
Apoorva yes.thank you sir.thats exactly what i wanted to know.
what is the purpose of musk in these species -is it for attracting the female
SSKHMD Dr. Susan, I agree. Musk is the only means of communication between individuals for this species, but it is also a curse. Musk
produced by males is believed to influence estrous cycles in females and helps in breeding
That means poaching is causing an adverse sex ratio too, as only males are targeted
Apoorva the HMD is primitively evolved- is that true? judging by the canines, and absence of
SSKHMD Musk deer are territorial and a strong male holds the best territory and his home range overlaps with the home ranges of two
or three females. musk is released in slight traces along with urine which helps in communicating to other males and the females
Apoorva what would be the average range of a male's territory?
Musk deer is not a true deer, but a primitive deer. It is grouped along with the mouse deer, barking deer and the chinese water deer as SSFR - small, solitary, forest ruminants.
Apoorva oh didnt know even the chinese water deer was part of that category.
SSKHMD Musk deer differ from the other deer by not having antler, facial glands and by the presence of the musk, caudal and inter-digital
glands. It has a gall bladder, which no other deer possesses
Apoorva was aware of that thankfully. the gall bladder, has the same purpose in these Deer as it does in humans?
Is there any agency involved in Musk Deer protection-like IFAW, Traffic ,nature
SSKHMD Gall bladder has the same purpose as in humans
Apoorva how much time we got left on our meter Dr.Susan?
SSKHMD TRAFFIC is involved in protecting musk deer. Unfortunately, the musk deer inhabit remote and rugged mountains that are poorly
protected due to ill-equipped wildlife staff and that along international borders
If there are no more questions we can call it a day. The chat is for one hour normally
SSKHMD Dr. Susan, Males are selectively removed if poaching is by fire arms, but if it is snaring - it is indiscriminate. Snaring more
SSKHMD One hour passed off so quickly
SSKHMD It was nice chating with the three of you about the Musk deer
Apoorva way too quick..was just beginning to understand the system!
Thank you for a most informative session
Apoorva Thank you very much Dr.Sathya and Dr.Susan!
SSKHMD Apoorva and Commoner - Please contact me if you have more questions on the musk deer
Hope to see you more often in the chat room Dr Sathya
Apoorva Sure will. we can contact u on firstname.lastname@example.org right?
SSKHMD Thanks a lot Dr. Susan. I wil try and join the chat next month. My email id is:
Thank you Apoorva and Commoner Shall we call it a day?
Apoorva Sure. no breaking rules if its set! Thanks a lot.
Thanks and Bye
Thank you Dr Sathya Kumar for sparing the time
You are welcome