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Visayan Spotted Deer

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years ago
The Visayan Spotted Dear

– The largest endemic species of the west Visayan Islands of the Philippines


Description and Rationale


 The Visayan Spotted Deer is a native animal of the Philippines; it is endemic to the Visayan islands of the central Philippines, formerly reported on Cebu, Guimaras, Leyte, Masbate, Negros, Panay, and Samar. But now, it is thought to remain only on the islands of Panay and Negros. The size of the Visayan spotted dear is 80~90 centimeter high, which is not that big, and its weight is 40 to 60 kilograms. This animal’s status is classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List 2004.

What is the Visayan Spotted Deer’s impact on the local ecology and animal populations in the Visayan Island? Is it an animal that eat ups all the farming products and fruits of Filipino? Is it a competitor for food resources with other organisms? Are they good for people so people can get something out from them? Are they keeping our ecology clean and not messing around with people’s agriculture? If they are endangered, what can people do to save the Visayan Spotted Deer?

The Visayan Spotted Deer is one of the rarest and most narrowly distributed mammals in the world, with only a few hundred wild animals thought to remain. A survey in 1991 found that the species had already become extinct in over 95% of its former range, largely as a result of intensive hunting and extensive deforestation, with land having been wiped out for agriculture and logging operations at a frightening pace. If people try to save the Visayan Spotted Deer, first of all they need to restore the tropical rain forest of the Philippines and stop hunting the animals. Then the benefits would be saving the deer and stopping the deforestation.

The initial purpose of this project will be to research the biology and ecology of the Visayan Spotted Deer remaining only on the islands of Panay and Negros, through a search of the literature as well as interviewing my Filipino helper, who is from Visayan. These search and interviews will help me in finding more information and local suggestions about how people can save the Visayan Spotted Deer.

It is hoped that new methods of saving the Visayan spotted dear would be found as a result of my research and help the deer to recover through a more informed understanding of an endangered biological organisms.


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Common Names and Synonyms

Cervus alfredi is also called Visayan Spotted Deer and some people call it the Philippine Spotted Deer. Visayan Spotted Deer is sometimes called Prince Alfred’s Sambar or the Visayan Deer. The Species is named after His Royal Highness Prince Alfred, who sent the first known specimen to P. L. Sclater. The Visayan Spotted Deer has different names in different regions. In East Visayan, they call it Lasao or Usa. But around Lake Balinsasayao, they have different names for their size, gender, and age. Around Lake Balinsasayao, a very large male Spotted Deer is called Dulom; medium sized or yearling male is called Manginum; female Spotted Deer is called Libay; and young ones are called Pero.





Kingdom:     Animalia (animals)

Phylum:      Chordata (true vertebrates)

Class:        Mammalia (mammals)

Order:       Artiodactyla (even-toed)

Family:      Cervidae (deer)

Genus:      Cervus (red deer)

Species:     Cervini (C. alfredi)


Although Cervus alfredi was considered to be a subspecies of R. unicolor, some authors report it as a subspecies of R. mariannus. This species is monotypic, although two genetically isolated populations exist on separate islands. 

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Morphology and Physical Description


This small, short-legged deer has a crouched build, similar to that seen in agoutis (an irregularly barred pattern of the fur of certain rodents) and duikers (having short and backward-pointing horns). Body length is about 128 centimeters, and shoulder height is about 70 centimeters. According to Mr. Rabor’s source in 1977, the male Spotted Deer’s head and body length was 129.5 centimeters; shoulder height was 77 centimeter; and tail length was 12.5 centimeter. The female deer were not very different with male deer. The female Spotted Deer’s head and body length was 126.9 centimeters; shoulder height was 71.5 centimeter; and tail length was 11.7 centimeter.


The pelage (the skin and fur of four-legged animal) is fine, soft, dense, and very different from other Rusine deer. The overall color is a dark, almost blackish-brown, which may be tinged with red. This deer cannot be mistaken for any other deer species native to the Philippines. Because they have very unique, small spots, when all others are solid in color.

Overall, the spotting pattern of Cervus alfredi is also found in some young Rusine deer. White to buff-colored oval spots is on along the sides, being large and scattered on the flanks. But growing smaller and fading as it goes to internal parts, disappearing at the level of the shoulders. The under sides and insides of the hips are whitish. This light coloration is especially noticeable along the groin and auxiliary region, and the inner surfaces of legs.

The legs are paler than the body, especially below the hock and corpus. A gland on the metatarsus is marked by a dark spot. The tail is quite short and short-haired, being dark brown above and whitish underneath.

The skull of the Visayan Spotted Deer is narrow compared to its length, and the face is rather pointed. The skulls of males are slightly larger than females, and the upper canines are absent in both sexes. The head is a paler brown than the body, with an even lighter region around the eyes. The underside of lower jaw, chin, and lower lip are a creamy white color, contrasting sharply with the otherwise deep brown face and neck. The ears are relatively small, only 8.9 to 10.5 centimeter long, and although black behind, the inner surfaces are densely covered with white hair.

The antlers grow from short bony stalk about 4.5 centimeters long. The short, stout antlers are bumpy and have a small brow tine. A male from Negros had antlers 24.4 centimeters long, with a span of 24.3 centimeters.




Getting Food


Visayan Spotted Deer are herbivores with a diet that includes a wide variety of vegetation. The primary component of the diet are young shoots of cogon grass found in clearings and young low-growing leaves and buds within the forest. The deer prefer the juicy vegetation that emerges after fires, so individuals are often found in recently burnt forest clearings, where they lick the ashes and feed on the newly shoots. Deer usually find something to eat at night time. 

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The breeding season of Visayan Spotted Deer takes place from November to December. Following the breeding season there is a 240 day gestation period which leaves the females giving birth in May and June.

Males compete with one another for access to win over females. Competition often involves sparring and vocalizing. Successful males are typically older and larger, and able to drive away younger, smaller males. These successful males are the ones who mate with the females.

There are not many information about how these deers take care of their babies. But in most cervids, parental care is strictly by females. Females give birth to one, sometimes two. The period of nursing lasts from a few weeks to a few months. Young may stay with their mothers past the time of weaning.


Environmental Factors


Visayan Spotted Deer are social animals and are generally found in small groups with fewer that eight individuals. It is hard to see Visayan Spotted Deer because of the high hunting pressure and declining population.

It is difficult to guess on the role that this rare species may play within its ecosystem. Surely, its browsing behavior has some influence on plant communities. It is likely that these deer are able to keep disturbed areas open for longer periods of time by eating down new vegetation. It is also likely that they influence the pattern of ecological succession in the areas of disturbance throughout their searching behavior, probably preferring some types of search over others. There are no diseases that can be spread by Visayan Spotted Deer.


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Origin and Distribution


Rusa alfredi is endemic to Philippines. R. alfredi was found on Cebu, Guimaras, Leyte, Masbate, Negros, Panay, and Samar. However, scientists found this species to be extirpated (all died or gone) from Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor, and likely Masbate. Currently, R. alfredi is only believed to exist on the Philippine islands of Negros and the Western Mount Baloy-Mount Madjaas region of Panay, having been extirpated from an estimated 95% of its former range.


Importance to People


There is both positive and negative importance for humans. It is hard to imagine how this species might affect humans negatively. The only possible negative effect would come from enforced protection of the habitat of this animal, which might stop humans from moving their subsistence agriculture to more fertile ground. However, there does not seem to be any enforcement of protection of the habitat of C. alfredi

Visayan Deer are a source of food for the native people of the Visayan Islands. Even though it is illegal to kill this species, it doesn’t stop them, and it has a positive effect on their lives by providing food. They can be grown in Captivity; in fact, a captive-breeding program has been developed.


Survivability and Endangered Status


Visayan Spotted Deer are one of the most endangered deer in the world. There are thought to be only a few hundred wild individuals still in existence. This also makes it one of the most endangered mammals in the world.

The main predators of Visayan Spotted Deer are humans. The peasants and other unemployed natives that inhabit the surrounding forest have resorted to hunting as a means of survival. Although this is tragic for the deer, it is difficult to blame staving people for killing the deer to keep themselves alive. Visayan deer are a protected species but the remoteness of their habitat makes guard patrols very difficult. This puts an increasing pressure on small populations that remain. During the dry season, which is from January until June, hunting pressure is at its highest.

The population is declining and its area of occupancy is less than 10 square kilometers and the quality of habitat are declining. A captive-breeding program has grown to three local breeding centers and a number of zoo’s worldwide. The program started with 13 Visayan Spotted Deer registered in the international studbook and has since grown to almost 80 registered deer.



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Potential Solutions


Is it possible to reestablish Cervus alfredi in Visayan island such as Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor and Masbate? Through the research, I found out that there is a zoo in United Kingdom named “Chester Zoo” and the zoo is trying to conserve Visayan Spotted Deer. Although, for endangered species, there are organizations such as Habitat Conservation Plans; Safe Harbor Agreements; Candidate Conservation Agreements; and Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances, but none of the above exists for the Visayan Deer. Further research and field studies about the ecology and food webs in the Philippines are necessary before determining if it is possible to reestablish Visayan Spotted Deer. There seem to be several promising livelihood possibilities that may be able to benefit the people, who live around the area where Cervus alfredi’s habitat is, by making the area as a national environmental park. Below are 2 possibilities with an analysis of the advantages and disadvantages for each. Along with each possibility is a current status report of progress made to date on each of the possibilities.


Possibility 1



From the internet site found from the Google search, there was an amazing site about the zoo in the North of England named “Chester Zoo.” Chester Zoo is founded in 1934. It has grown to become one of the largest and most beautiful zoos in the UK. What is so special about this zoo is that they are running a program called International Field Conservation. The mission of this program is to help save wildlife from extinction. This mission is achieved at Chester Zoo through education, conservation breeding, research, and advances in animal welfare. These are all conservation activities that occur within the Zoo, this is called “Ex-Situ” conservation


1. Supporting the Chester Zoo is the easy way for people to participate in saving the Visayan Spotted Deer. Because not many people can actually go to Visayan Islands and work there just for saving the Visayan Spotted Deer. But through supporting the Chester Zoo, it is easy to solve the problem indirectly, without being in the Philippines.

2. Chester Zoo has professionals who studied zoology and about deer. I think the deer problem would be solved faster and more easily through zoology professionals. The Chester Zoo is running Philippine Biodiversity Conservation Program. In partnership with local conservation organizations of the Philippine Program, now covers conservation work with many threatened Philippine species and habitats. From this, we know that Filipinos are involved with this program and even get a job from this because the local people are the real ones who know well about the situation of the animals and the local habitat. Since there are many people without job, this program can help the people and the Visayan Spotted Deer.


1. Since the Chester Zoo is in the England, it is hard to just get there to support the zoo by visiting the zoo and not many people will because of the financial burden. And if people are supporting them by money through the internet account, they do not really know if Chester Zoo is really doing its job for deer and not hoard the money secretly. It will be hard to get people’s trust and interest for supporting this program.

2. I tried to send an email to one of the people, who were in charge of International Field Conservation, but they did not reply me. And I guess it is hard to contact with people in England from Philippines. On the internet site, it says that they have been running the program


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Possibility 2



I discovered that the population of the Visayan Spotted Deer is declining and its area of occupancy is less than 10 square kilometers and the quality of habitat are declining. But there were some good news too. A captive-breeding program has grown to three local breeding centers and a number of zoo’s worldwide. The program started with 13 Visayan Spotted Deer registered in the international studbook and has since grown to almost 80 registered deer. If it is possible for the Visayan Spotted dear to be grown in captivity, why not provide a breeding program with the local people to increase the number of the Visayan Spotted Deer?


1. Breeding program is one of the most effective and direct solution for conserving the Visayan Spotted Deer. And since it is possible to raise Visayan Spotted Deer in captivity, it will be easier than making the whole area as a national park and it will be cheaper to run a breeding program than to make a national park or a zoo.

2. I heard from my Ate, Janet, that in that area, there are many sex trades going on such as prostitution. One of the reasons is that when the girls graduate their high school or middle school, there are no jobs for the girls except working as a house helper or as a prostitute. But if there would be numbers of breeding centers, it also means that there are going to be more jobs available for the girls or guys to get. The more breeding centers there are, more jobs, more deer there will be and less prostitution.


1. The idea of captive breeding is great, but there are some problems. Gathering the deer and breeding them is not a problem. But when the deer get used to the humans and maybe forget to adjust back to the habitat they used to live in. Even if they will go back to the wild, the country has already lost over 90% of its original forest cover and continues to lose natural habitat and species at an alarming rate. There is a possibility that the Visayan Spotted Deer will come back to where they stayed for breeding program even if they have to go back to the wild.


2. One of the reasons that the Visayan Spotted Deer become endangered is because of the people. People ate Cervus alfredi to get proteins for their diet because this was the natural source that they were able to get for their family. Let’s say that the breeding went well and became successful. But once they get out of the program and adjust to the nature, there is a possibility that people will hunt them down again to get meat, unless there is a certain law for Visayan Spotted Deer.


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Possibility 3



From the video, “An Inconvenient Truth,” Al Gore said that “The Earth is not ours; it belongs to the next generations.” So what I thought is educating the children to conserve the environment and animals for their future. Some day, our generations will have to take care of the earth instead of us. If we teach how to conserve the environment to our next generation, there might be a chance for earth to be reestablished.


1. Teaching the children is easier than teaching the adults. They accept things better than adults. It is actually proven that childhood memory stays longer in his or her memory than adulthood memory. I think teaching is one of the effective methods to convince people and influence people. When the children learn how to conserve the environment, the concept will be planted in their minds and they will be able to teach the same to their offspring.

2. While teaching how to conserve the environment to children, teachers can also tell the children about Jesus Christ. Conserving the nature relates to what the Bible told us. If this can be an opportunity to spread the gospel of the Christ, people will get double benefits.


1. In order to educated the children, the teachers who are educated and who are willing to teach the children will be needed. But it is hard to find someone who is educated and passionate around the Visayan area.


2. The decreasing rate of the Visayan Spotted Deer is growing day by day. Teaching the children can be a good thing for future, but it won’t change anything right now. What if all the Visayan Spotted Deer dies out during teaching the next generation? If the Visayan Spotted Deer’s species status is secured, it might be possible to just educate the children. But right now, saving the Deer is the most critical thing. Teaching the children might sound too composure for the critical situation.



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“ARKive” Visayan Spotted Deer February 2006.

<http://www.arkive.org/species/GES/mammals/ Cervus_alfredi/more_info.html>

“Cervus Alfredi” The Field Museum 2007. 04 May 2007


“Chester Zoo” Chester Zoo 2007. 04 May 2007.


“Classification.” Animal Diversity Web 2006. 04 May 2007


“Department of the Environment and Water Resources” Australian Government 15 February 2007.


Kim, Jayme. Personal interview. 05 May 2007.

“Philippine Spotted Deer” Wikipedia. 26 February 2007.


Walker, Mark. World Deer. 2006. <http://www.worlddeer.org/index.html.>

“WAZA” World Association of Zoos and Aquariums 2007. 04 May 2007.



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