Chat Archives
Chat on "The Himalayan Musk Deer" dated November 18, 2007


    Online chat dated 18 November 2007

    “The Himalayan Musk Deer



    Members in the chat room


    Dr Sathya Kumar







    Susan             Welcome to IWC chat on 18th Nov.2007

    Susan   The topic is "The Himalayan Musk Deer"

    Susan   Dr. SathyaKumar from Wildlife Institute of India, Dehra Dun will be moderating the chat

    SSKHMD Good Evening Dr. Susan, I am ready to moderate

    Susan   Good Evening Dr Sathya Kumar

    SSKHMD I visited the chat archives and found them very interesting

    Susan   Till others join in, may be you can give a brief introdn

    SSKHMD OK I will do that

    Susan   Our membership base is varied people from varied walks varied interests So new perspectives come up in the chats

    Apoorva Hi, im Apoorva, hopefully, I’m on time!

    Susan             welcome Apoorva

    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

    SSKHMD 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

    SSKHMD In India we have the Himalayan Musk deer and the Black Musk deer. The Dwarf MD may also be  present

    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

    SSKHMD Minor differences probably the coat colour (leuco = white)



    Apoorva 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?

    Susan   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 in 1981.

    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

    SSKHMD Main problems are poaching for the illegal trade in musk and habitat loss and habitat degradation

    Apoorva right. thank you for that.



    Susan   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

    Susan   Hello Commoner

    SSKHMD Musk deer is found in the upper temperate, sub alpine and alpine habitats, but the optimal habitats are the alpine scrub and tree line

    SSKHMD Welcome Commoner


    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

    Apoorva what is the temperature range for the survival of the HMD?

    Susan   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

    Susan   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 survival wise.

    Susan   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

    Susan   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

    Susan   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.

    Susan   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

    Susan   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  antlers.




    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?

    SSKHMD 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?

    Susan   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

    Susan   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 common nowadays

    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!

    Susan   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

    Susan   Hope to see you more often in the chat room Dr Sathya

    Apoorva Sure will. we can contact u on right?

    SSKHMD Thanks a lot Dr. Susan. I wil try and join the chat next month. My email id is:

    Susan   Thank you Apoorva and Commoner Shall we call it a day?

    Apoorva Sure. no breaking rules if its set! Thanks a lot.

    SSKHMD            Thanks and Bye

    Susan   Thank you Dr Sathya Kumar for sparing the time

    SSKHMD  You are welcome


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