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During the 19th century, Nature (the journal) publishes news on the latest addition to the London’s Zoological Society’s garden.  In its June 23, 1870 issue, it talks of at least two Philippine deer. One deer was acquired from Guam but the donor specifically said it was introduced from the Philippines while the second one came from Singapore.

I will tell you below how I knew that the second one is definitely from the Islands.

Rusa marianna, courtesy: http://www.botolanwildlifefarm.com

In April…among the more noticeable additions were:

I.  A female of one of the smaller forms of Rusine deer, purchased by a dealer on the 13th of April, and stated to have been received from the Philippines.  This animal is quite distinct in its small sized and dark brown fur from any other member of the group now or lately in the society’s collection. If the assigned locality is correct it may probably belong to the Rusa deer of the Philippines, which was first named Cervus mariannus by Desmarest, as having been found living by the French naturalists during the voyage of the Uranie at the Marianne Islands. Here, however, it was stated to have been introduced from the Philippines. It would be very desirable to increase our knowledge of the deer of the Philippines. Probably there is more than one species that occurs there.[1]

They are right as there are 3 endemic species from the Islands! Moreover, the  International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reports that “there are (actually) four described subspecies (of the Philippine deer): Rusa m. marianna from Luzon and associated islands, R. m. barandana from Mindoro; R. m. nigella from various and disjunct upland sites on Mindanao; and R. m. nigricans from various lowland sites on Mindanao and the adjacent island of Basilan.”[2]

The second endemic species is the Philippine spotted deer, Rusa alfredi. Nature writes:

Among the 200 acquisitions in May were of great interest:

I. A male deer, forwarded to the Gardens from Singapore by order of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh. This is quite different from any other deer yet obtained living by the Zoological Society. It is obviously allied to the axis or spotted deer of continental India, and may be the Malayan form of that species. It differs, however, in its smaller size and smaller ears, and in the dark-cofee-brown colour of the fur. I have not been able to find any designation applicable to it, and at a recent meeting of the Zoological Society, have proposed to call it Cervus alfredi (now Rusa), after the Prince, who has transmitted the present individual to us.[1]

Rusa alfredi, © 1870 Nature publishing group

This deer was not fully recognized as an individual species until 1983 but now is considered the rarest deer in the world [3] with fewer than 2500 mature individuals [4]. IUCN adds, “Presently, the species is restricted to the Mount Madja – Mount Baloy area of west Panay and a few scattered remnants of forest on Negros.”  IUCN also said that the species from Panay and Negros may have evolved into different subspecies because these populations have not been in contact for thousands of years.

The Philippine spotted deer was never found in Singapore or outside of the Negros-Panay Faunal Region in the wild[4]. Hence, the deer that the Duke gave to the society came from the Islands.

One can read from the Nature article that it maybe a Malay counterpart of the Indian axis deer. But current taxonomic classification says that the Philippine spotted deer belongs to a different genus. The axis deer of  India is more related to the 3rd Philippine endemic species, the Calamian deer[5].

Fortunately/unfortunately, the Zoological Society didn’t get a specimen of the Calamian deer on the same year.

Currently it is a pity that the Philippine deer is vulnerable while the Philippine spotted dear and the Calamian deer are both endangered [2,4,5].

More than a hundred year after the Nature publication on these species of deer, scientists are still putting the puzzle that is the fauna and faura of the Philippine islands.

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[1] Nature 2, 146-148 (23 June 1870). DOI:10.1038/002146a0

[2] Oliver, W., MacKinnon, J., Ong, P. & Gonzales, J.C. 2008. Rusa marianna. In: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 12 November 2010.

[3]http://www.wildlifeextra.com/go/news/visayan-deer009.html#cr

[4] Oliver, W., MacKinnon, J., Heaney, L. & Lastica, E. 2008. Rusa alfredi. In: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 12 November 2010.

[5] Oliver, W., Widmann, P. & Lastica, E. 2008. Axis calamianensis. In: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 12 November 2010.

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