Vertebrate fauna of SE Asia


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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless otherwise credited.
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Family : Cervidae
Species : Rusa unicolor

Shoulder Height : Males up to 1.6 metres
Tail Length : Males up to 28 cm 
Weight : Males up to 260 kg
Females are considerably smaller.

The Sambar or Rusa deer once occurred in a variety of habitats but is now confined mainly to primary and mature secondary forests due to hunting pressure. Crepuscular (i.e. active at morning and dusk) and nocturnal in habit, they are most easily spotted at the forest margins where they feed on young grass shoots. They frequent natural salt licks, particularly adult males who need minerals to promote growth of their antlers.

Male Sambar are among the largest of Southeast Asia's deer, with a head-body length of up to 2 metres and weighing up to 260 kg. The fur is brown to grey-brown, the tail dark and the underside of the tail and rump area whitish. The antlers of the male usually have three tines (points). In addition to grass shoots they feed on vines and fallen fruits. Herds are small with up to 4 individuals, and a single fawn is born after a gestation period of 8 months.

The species ranges from India, Sri Lanka and Nepal through Myanmar, southern China and Indochina, to Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

In Singapore, Sambar were possibly hunted to extinction in the 1940's and 1950's, however in recent years the species has somehow re-established a small population in the country's central forests.

Fig 1 : Impressive looking male with large antlers.  Khao Yai National Park, Thailand.

Fig 2 : Female from Danum Valley, Sabah, Borneo.

Fig 3 : A mother and her calf feeding on lush grass.  Danum Valley, Sabah, Borneo.

Fig 4 : This male has recently shed his antlers : this is a natural event which occurs every few years.  Khao Yai National Park, Thailand.

Fig 5 : Sambar tracks at Khao Yai National Park, Thailand.

Fig 6 :  Adult female in dense, forest-edge grassland in Singapore.

Fig 7 : A young buck cools off in a mud wallow created by a Eurasian Wild Pig.

References : M1, M2, M3