Greater Mouse Deer sighted in Pulau Ubin

Animal thought to be extinct in Singapore spotted for first time in 80 years
Ang Yiying, Straits Times 26 Mar 09;

SEPARATE sightings of mouse deer here and on Pulau Ubin have brought hope that native wildlife is making a comeback in Singapore.

The Greater Mouse Deer - one of the smallest hoofed animals in the world - was seen on Pulau Ubin during a survey by the National University of Singapore and National Parks Board (NParks) from last September to this month.

Photo courtesy of Arthur Chng

This is the first official sighting of the wild Greater Mouse Deer in more than 80 years, confirmed NParks.

The Lesser Mouse Deer, which has a browner coat, against the Greater's more orange colouring, was seen around the Lower Peirce Reservoir boardwalk, near Upper Thomson Road, on March 7.

Book distributor Ron Chan, 62, said he spotted the mouse deer when he was taking a walk with his family.

He said: 'It's a very beautiful animal and its eyes are sparkling black.'

He alerted a nearby nature photography enthusiast, Mr Arthur Chng, in his 30s, to take a photo of the creature.

The hobby photographer said it was the first time he had seen a mouse deer, and that it was a good sign that Singapore wildlife has not disappeared due to encroaching urbanisation.

NParks said that over the past two years, there have been four sightings of mouse deer around the Lower Peirce Reservoir boardwalk.

Three were of the Lesser Mouse Deer and the other of the Greater Mouse Deer, which could be one of seven such animals that NParks introduced into the Central Catchment Nature Reserve in 1998.

For NUS life sciences undergraduate Marcus Chua, 25, sighting the Greater Mouse Deer on Pulau Ubin was an unexpected discovery.

He was working with NParks and its volunteers on a survey of medium-sized mammals for his final-year project.

He said: 'At first, there was doubt because it was recorded as extinct in Singapore; that was the first time we saw it. When we got a clearer picture (of the mouse deer), we were very excited.'

On Pulau Ubin, the group has chalked up 100 sightings of the Greater Mouse Deer in more than one area, so it was unlikely that these are abandoned or escaped pets. The species is also not known to swim, so the animals there are unlikely to have come from those released in the catchment area.

'We were quite happy that a population thought to be extinct could have recovered, like bouncing back to life,' Mr Chua said.

Ms Celine Low, co-founder of environmental education group Cicada Tree Eco-Place, said one reason the Greater Mouse Deer was seen again on Pulau Ubin could be the decreased human population and activity there.

She said: 'It could be because the last quarry closed in the 1990s and there are fewer workers there and because of relocation of villagers to the mainland.'

Nature Society of Singapore president Shawn Lum said the presence of mouse deer was a good sign for not just native wildlife but also the eco-system. 'They play an important role in the ecology of the forest...It's great news for the long- term stability and regeneration of the rainforest,' he said.

NParks said it is conducting surveys to ascertain the population of these creatures.

Shy and nocturnal creatures
Straits Times 26 Mar 09;

MOUSE deer are native to Singapore and are known to exist in parts of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, the forested area that borders MacRitchie Reservoir, Lower Peirce Reservoir, Upper Peirce Reservoir and Upper Seletar Reservoir.

Mr Biswajit Guha, assistant director of zoology at the Singapore Zoo, said the Greater and Lesser Mouse Deer are fairly common throughout South-east Asia and not severely threatened.

However, in Singapore, the Greater Mouse Deer is thought to be extinct while the Lesser Mouse Deer is said to be critically endangered.

Said Mr Guha: 'The Greater Mouse Deer sports a more orange coat, while the Lesser has a browner coat.'

GREATER MOUSE DEER (Tragulus napu)
# Head-body length: 520mm to 572mm
# Shoulder height: 300mm to 350mm
# Weight: 3.5kg to 4.5kg

LESSER MOUSE DEER (Tragulus kanchil)
# Head-body length: 400mm to 550mm
# Shoulder height: 200mm to 230mm
# Weight: 1.4kg to 2.5 kg

NParks says sightings of mouse deer are rare, especially during the day. It advises the public to keep quiet when encountering such animals, which are shy and nocturnal by nature.

More links
Greater Mouse Deer rediscovered on Pulau Ubin after 80 years on the Biodiversity crew @ NUS blog

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