Discovery of the leaf deer Muntiacus putaoensis in Arunachal Pradesh: An addition to the large mammals of India
Publication Type:Journal Article
Source:Current Science, Volume 84, Number 3, p.454–458 (2003)
Mammals, comprising over 4600 species, are considered among the best-known groups in the animal kingdom1. Among them, the distribution and natural history of large- bodied groups such as ungulates have been particularly well documented, with only ten new species of ungulates being described worldwide between 1930 and 1994 (out of 742 new mammals described during this period)1. However, in the last decade, surveys in Southeast Asia led to the description of four ungulate species new to science2???6. Amongst them is the leaf deer Muntiacus putaoensis, recently discovered in northern Myanmar3,7 (see Figure 1). This is amongst the smallest known species of muntjacs (mean adult body mass 12 kg), at half the size of the Indian muntjac M. muntjak (22???29 kg)7,8. So far, the Indian muntjac is the only muntjac species known to occur in the Indian subcontinent. The discovery of the leaf deer in the hill forests of Myanmar led us to conjecture that the species should also occur in the adjoining hill forests of Arunachal Pradesh in northeast India (Figure 1), a region whose wildlife has remained poorly explored due to remoteness and difficult mountainous terrain. The possibility of occurrence of the species was first investigated in April 2002 during a study of hornbills and hunting patterns among tribal communities in eastern Arunachal9, and in November 2002, we started a survey of large mammals that specifically aimed to establish the occurrence of leaf deer. The first phase of the survey has been completed, having covered the Jai- rampur Forest Division of Changlang District. In this com- unication, we report the presence of the leaf deer in India, from Changlang district, eastern Arunachal Pradesh. This perhaps represents the only addition so far to the ungulate fauna of the Indian subcontinent in the last century.
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