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World’s rarest deer found alive and well on Philippine islands

22/07/2009 09:05:16

Visayan spotted deer are now only found on 2 remore Philippine islands. Credit Dr Craig Turner

Visayan Spotted deer still surviving on remote Philippine islands

July 2009. The Negros Interior Biodiversity Expedition (NIBE) has confirmed that it had found evidence of two groups of the Visayan Spotted Deer alive and well in the North Negros Natural Park (NNNP) in the Philippines. The team of experts recently returned from the first scientific exploration of the park interior where they recorded the presence of many endangered and endemic species, with several new species records for the NNNP.

The Visayan Spotted Deer (Cervus alfredi) is endemic to the Visayan islands of the central Philippines, formerly reported on only seven islands (Cebu, Guimaras, Leyte, Masbate, Negros, Panay, and Samar), but now thought to remain only on the islands of Panay and Negros. It is a small deer found only in tropical rainforests up to about 1500 metres and has been hunted from 95% of its range. The population within the NNNP was believed to be one of the few viable breeding groups left in world with possibly no more than a couple of hundred individuals surviving. Heavy hunting pressure has led to the deer not being recorded in the NNNP for many years until the NIBE team found fresh deer droppings in several locations, deer tracks and significant evidence of feeding activity.

Highly important find
James Sawyer, NIBE expedition leader said of the find "This is a critically important find to discover such an important animal alive and well in its natural habitat. While this proves that the grass roots conservation initiatives are working on the island of Negros, the deer and similar endangered species in the park need more protection in order to assure their survival."

Philippine forests harbour many rare, endangered and endemic species. Credit Dr Craig Turner.

Philippine forests harbour many rare, endangered and endemic species. Credit Dr Craig Turner.

Many more rare species
"Finding such a globally important species is great news for conservation scientists but more importantly it shows that the NNNP and Philippine forests still harbour many rare and unique species, found nowhere else in the world. Conservation work is critically under-funded and our partners Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation Inc (NFEFI), really are fighting a pitched battle to assure future generations are handed their biological inheritance" added Dr Craig Turner, research leader for the expedition.

During the three week rapid biodiversity assessment, the team battled difficult terrain and conditions to survey an area completely new to science. The team included a film maker and teacher to assure the story of the expedition is told and new educational resources are made available to both the Philippines and the UK.

NIBE's partners NFEFI are a Philippine NGO based on the island of Negros who has been working to save and reforest the NNNP for the last twenty years. Programmes include: alternative livelihoods, reforestation, education and captive breeding programmes.

NIBE was an independently organised and funded expedition made up of specialists from both the Philippines and the United Kingdom.


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