Scientific Name: Capricornis crispus
The Japanese serow marks its territory with vinegar-scented secretions from a gland below its eye, called the preorbital gland.
The Los Angeles Zoo was the first zoo in the Western hemisphere to receive Japanese serow from Japan. They arrived at the Zoo in 1976 as a Bicentennial present from L.A.’s sister city of Nagoya, Japan; a present we graciously accepted and reciprocated with a pair of Rocky Mountain goats.
STATUS: The Japanese serow is considered lower risk, although this status is dependent on current conservation efforts.
HABITAT: Hailing from three of the main islands of Japan: Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu, the Japanese serow prefers the cold, dense woodland of the mountains. At 2,000 to 8,000 feet above sea level they thrive in the hillside forests and use the rocky overhangs for protection from both weather and danger.
DIET: Japanese serow are herbivores whose diet consists of mostly leaves, acorns, grasses, and twigs. Two of the most common food staples for the Japanese serow are sasa kurilensis, a northern growing bamboo plant, and thuja standishii, a cypress plant native to Japan.
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Weighing anywhere from 110 to 242 pounds, the Japanese serow is actually a lot smaller than its mainland relative. Japanese serow have extremely thick, wooly, mottled brown and white coats with black underparts. They have especially bushy tails, as well as shaggy white beards and long, pointed brown ears. Both males and females grow backward-curving horns of about 10 centimeters long.
Past and Present Dangers
Maintaining the Japanese serow population over the years has been one bumpy rollercoaster ride! Near the beginning of the 20th century, the Japanese serow became a prime hunting target. The population dwindled to so few animals due to overhunting and habitat loss that Japan declared the animal to be a natural monument in 1934. This declaration helped the Japanese serow population grow, but the poaching continued. In 1955 Japan designated the species as a special natural monument. This declaration was more effective than the first, boosting the Japanese serow population up to 75% more in some areas.