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Animal Info - White-lipped (Thorold's) Deer

(Other Names: 白唇鹿, Grass Deer, Rock Deer, Shoa-u-chu, White-faced Maral, Yellow Deer)

Cervus (Przewalskium) albirostris

Status: Vulnerable


Contents

1. Profile (Picture)
2. Tidbits
3. Status and Trends (IUCN Status, Countries Where Currently Found, Population Estimates, History of Distribution, Threats and Reasons for Decline)
4. Data on Biology and Ecology (Weight, Habitat, Age to Maturity, Gestation Period, Birth Season, Birth Rate, Maximum Age, Diet, Behavior, Social Organization, Age and Gender Distribution, Density and Range)
5. References


Profile

Pictures: White-lipped Deer #1 and White-lipped Deer #2 (Huffman 2004)

The white-lipped deer is a large deer, weighing up to 230 kg (500 lb). It is generally found in high hills and mountains covered with a mosaic of forest, rhododendron, and meadows. High, open pastures are preferred, usually above 3500 m (11,500 ft) up to the limit of vegetation above 5000 m (16,400 ft). Grasses comprise most of its diet. Herds of up to 200 - 300 individuals have been observed.

The white-lipped deer is endemic to the Tibetan Plateau in China. It previously occurred across much of the eastern Tibetan Plateau. Currently it occurs in Tibet, from the vicinity of Lhasa eastward into western Sichuan and in the eastern two-thirds of Qinghai and into Gansu. Although widespread within its range, it occurs at low densities. Populations are highly fragmented, partly due to the terrain but also partly due to hunting.

The white-lipped deer was already declining in the 1960's due to hunting and sale of its antlers and other body parts for use in oriental medicine. At present, competition with livestock and hunting for meat and antlers are major threats. Habitat conversion and fragmentation continue.


Tidbits

*** It is called the "white-lipped" deer because of pure-white patches on its upper and lower lips and throat.

*** The white-lipped deer has especially large and solid hooves, which equip it for mountain climbing.

*** Walking white-lipped deer make a clicking sound that comes from their hooves, a noise similar to that made by caribou and Pere David's deer. (Schaller 1998)


Status and Trends

IUCN Status:

  • 1960's: Insufficiently known
  • 1970's - 1980's: Indeterminate
  • 1994: Vulnerable
  • 1996 - 2004: Vulnerable (Criteria: C1) (IUCN 2004)

Countries Where the White-lipped Deer Is Currently Found:

2004: Occurs in China (IUCN 2004).

Population Estimates:

[Note: Figures given are for wild populations only.]

History of Distribution:

The white-lipped deer is endemic to the Tibetan Plateau in China. It previously occurred across much of the eastern Tibetan Plateau. Currently it occurs in Tibet from the vicinity of Lhasa eastward into western Sichuan and in the eastern two-thirds of Qinghai, roughly east of 93 degrees east, into Gansu (Schaller 1998). Although widespread within its range, it occurs at low densities. Populations are highly fragmented, partly due to the terrain but also partly due to hunting.

Distribution Map (5 Kb GIF) (Huffman 2004)

Threats and Reasons for Decline:

The white-lipped deer was already declining in the 1960's due to hunting and sale of its antlers and other body parts for use in oriental medicine (IUCN 1966). At present, competition with livestock and hunting for meat and antlers are major threats. Habitat conversion and fragmentation continue.


Data on Biology and Ecology

Weight:

Females: usually less than 180 kg (400 lb), males: 180 - 230 kg (400 - 500 lb) (Schaller 1998).

Females: average 125 kg (275 lb), males: average 204 kg (450 lb) (Nowak 1999).

Habitat:

The white-lipped deer inhabits high hills and mountains covered with a mosaic of forest, rhododendron, willow, other shrubs, and meadows, including those above the timberline.  It also occurs in arid, treeless ranges and on alpine meadows.  It prefers high, open pastures, usually above 3500 m (11,500 ft) up to the limit of vegetation above 5000 m (16,400 ft) (Schaller 1998).

The white-lipped deer lives in both the Himalaya and Mountains of Southwest China Biodiversity Hotspots (Cons. Intl. 2005) as well as the Tibetan Plateau Steppe Global 200 Ecoregion (Olson & Dinerstein 1998, Olson & Dinerstein 1999).

Age to Maturity:

Females: probably at least 3 years (wild) (Schaller 1998). Males: 5 years (captivity) (Wemmer 1998)

Gestation Period:

7.5 - 8.3 months.

Birth Season:

Most young are born between late May and the end of June or early July, with a few as late as August (Schaller 1998).

Birth Rate:

A single fawn is born each year. Captive females usually produce 7 - 8 fawns during their lifetime. (Nowak 1999)

Maximum Age:

At least 19 years (captive female) (Nowak 1999).

Diet:

Mostly grasses.

Behavior:

The white-lipped deer is sedentary, with little altitudinal movement.  In winter, it ranges in the vicinity of lakes and rivers when food availability is higher. (Wemmer 1998)

Herds have been known to swim for 25 minutes to offshore islands in a lake (Schaller 1998).

Social Organization:

For part of the year the stags may wander alone or in small male herds with up to 8 members, but by the onset of the rut in September, most are in mixed herds with many members of both sexes and all ages. One to 8 very large stags are usually with a mixed herd during the rut. In September and October, 8 mixed herds ranged in size from 6 - 92 individuals. In western Sichuan, the average herd size in October, at the height of the rut, was 51, with as many as 165 and 169 individuals together, and herds with 200 - 300 animals have been reported. (Schaller 1998)

Groups have an average size of 39 deer and include only males, only females and young, or a mix of ages and sexes.  Groups appear to be highly cohesive, but during the mating season the adult males became solitary and highly aggressive toward one another. (Nowak 1999)

Age and Gender Distribution:

The ratio of yearlings to adult females (i.e. 3 years or older) in one sample was 36:100. The ratio of young to adult females was 50:100. (Schaller 1998)

Observed male:female ratios from different studies include 45:100, 29:100, and 59:100. Because these data were collected just before and during the rut, when the males and females are most likely to be in the same area, the smaller number of males probably reflects the actual situation, due in part to selective hunting for antlers. (Schaller 1998)

Density and Range:

Observed densities: 0.3 individuals/sq km (0.8 individuals/sq mi) (Shule Nanshan); 1.3 individuals/sq km (3.4 individuals/sq mi); 0.1 individuals/sq km (0.3 individuals/sq mi) (Zadoi); 4.4 individuals/sq km (11.4 individuals/sq mi) (Sichuan) (Schaller 1998).


References

Burton & Pearson 1987, Cons. Intl. 2005, Huffman 2004, IUCN 1966, IUCN 1994, IUCN 1996, IUCN 2000, IUCN 2003a, IUCN 2004, Nowak 1999, Nowak & Paradiso 1983, Olson & Dinerstein 1998, Olson & Dinerstein 1999, Schaller 1998, Tan 1996, Wemmer 1998


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Last modified: March 5, 2005;

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