Sunday, July 3, 2011

Musk Deer: Highly Valuable Animal

Nature has provided many opportunities to each and every individual to survive in different habitats. Musk deer is one such type of deer adapted in its habitat and is highly valuable. Truly speaking they are artiodactyls placed in the family Moschidae. It is a single genus in this family. It is scientifically known as Moschus. They are more primitive than cervids or true deers and lack antlers and facial glands. They are unique as they have single pair of teats, gall bladder,caudal gland and a pair of tusk like teeth. The most important feature is the presence of musk gland which is of high economic value for humans. They live in the forests and scrubs of mountainous regions southern Asia notably Himalayas.

Musk deer resemble small deer in their stocky build of body and their hind legs are somewhat larger as compared to the front legs. They are 80-100 cm tall and weigh about 7-17 kg. Their legs are greatly adapted to run of rough terrain. Although they lack antlers but they have long upper canines and sabre shaped tusks. The dental formula is similar like that of the true deer. The characteristic musk gland is present only in males. The musk gland is present in a sac lying between the genital area and the umbilicus. The main function of musk gland is to secrete a chemical substance whose characteristic musky odour is very potent in attracting a female during the breeding season for successful copulation.

They are strictly herbivorous in their diet and prefer to live in hilly, forested environments, generally far from human habitation. Like all true deer they prefer to feed on leaves, flowers, and grasses, with some mosses and lichens. They are generally solitary animals and maintain their territories. The territories are marked by the scent secreted from the caudal glands. They are shy creatures. They may be nocturnal or crepuscular which depends upon the habitat. Strong rivals have been observed among the males during the rutting season. The males fight with the help of their tusks a feature different from other deer species that fight through antlers. The gestation period lasts for about 150-180 days. The female gives birth to only a single young one. The new born is very delicate, small and remains motionless for about one month. This feature helps the kid to remain hidden from the predator. They are mainly hunted for the musk which fetches a price of about $45,000/kg in the black market.

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