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Deer, Calamian

Calamain Deer at the LA Zoo photo credit Tad Motoyama

Scientific Name: Axis calamianensis

Staying close to the ground and hiding in dense vegetation may be an adaptation to predators in the air and in trees.

A Typical Day

These crepuscular animals, meaning that they are active before sunrise and at dusk, rest during the warmer part of the day and then come out from their undergrowth resting places to forage. They are mainly solitary but may form small herds if left undisturbed.

This animal is classified as Endangered by the IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and has a population of under 500. While the deer was found in large numbers as recently as the 1940’s, by the 1970s their population had significantly declined. Hunting and habitat reduction are the major factors in the animal’s decline. Natural predators include birds of prey and pythons.

Calamian deer are native to the Philippines’ Calamian Islands, located off the northern tip of Palawan island in the westernmost Philippines. They prefer to live in swampy areas close to rivers, marshes with tall grass, open forests, clear cut areas or second-growth scrub.

These ungulates (animals with hoofs) are primarily browsers who feed on the shoots, leaves and twigs of low-lying trees and shrubs. They will sometimes graze on fallen flowers and fruits. Male deer need large amounts of calcium and phosphate from their food in order to grow antler bone.

The small Calamian deer are compact and heavy-set with a short head. They weigh about 79 to 110 pounds, stand only about 24-29 inches high at the shoulder and are about three and a half feet long with a bushy eight-inch tail. Their short coat is tan-colored set off by a white muzzle outlined by a darker band, white inner ears and ear base, a white under-tail, and a light patch on the throat. Their relatively long legs are darker than the rest of their body. Males have widely-separated three-pronged antlers. These deer, like the other approximately 40 deer species, are ruminants, meaning that they have four stomach chambers and chew their cud. A soft, high-pitched, nasal call is their main vocalization.

There are no harems in this species of deer. Instead, stags defend and mate with one female at a time. After a gestation period of 180 days, one, or rarely two, fawns are born. Although Calamian deer can breed throughout the year, most young are born in April or May. They are weaned at about six months and reach sexual maturity at eight to twelve months. The animals’ life span is about 12 to 20 years in captivity.

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