Biodiversity Nepal
For the Future Generation

Threats and conservation strategies of Musk deer in Bhutan: Globally endangered species

Anti-poaching Patrols are working their best for conservation.

Patrol team of Gasa Range rescuing and releasing musk deer which was caught in the snares set by poachers. Photo by Pema Dendup, JDNP

Musk deer is a globally endangered species and also listed as Appendix 1 species by the convention on international trade in endangered species of wild flora and fauna (CITES) receiving global conservation significance. 

Bhutan is home for 2 species of musk deer: Himalayan musk deer (Moschus leucogaster) and Alpine musk deer (Moschus chrysogaster). Musk deer is a solitary forest ruminant living in the higher elevation of Nepal, India, Tibet and Bhutan. The Himalayan musk deer is recorded as endangered species by IUCN Red list and schedule 1 animal in forest conservation act of Bhutan (1995) which gives maximum legal protection to the species.

 It is found scarcely in nearly all the protected parks in Bhutan and musk deer occupies in montane forest and sub-alpine regions throughout their distribution. 

Alpine musk deer. Photo by Discovery access, JDNP

In summer days, they occupy in grassy meadows usually near the river valleys and in winter, they are found in Fir (Abies densa) forest. Musk deer are fundamentally hunted for their highly-valued musk deer pod which is present in the adult male. The presence of scented glands in grown-up male and discharge of fragrance from it makes difference in keeping them isolated in their domain. Musk deer is foremost seasoned and productive of all scented animals item utilized in the perfume industry and medicinal purposes. 

Anthropogenic influences such as forest fire, predation, clearing of shrubs for the pasture land (habitat destruction) is observed as some of the preservation threats for Himalayan musk deer other than poaching. Poachers in Bhutan are increasing due to illegal trade and high demand from the Chinese market. It is estimated that one hundred musk deer are killed in Bhutan each year despite the strong patrolling. 

Department of forest and the Royal Society for Protection of Nature have stepped up anti-poaching patrols in the highland area and providing smart training to all park staff and leaders of a nomad, increasing their community participation in the conservation of musk deer.

Kezang Choden: She is one of the contributors to Biodiversity Nepal from Bhutan. She has completed her M.Sc. in Natural Resource Management from Punakha, Bhutan. 

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