A new study by NTNC researcher Paras Bikram Singh has provided evidence of the presence of the endangered Kashmir musk deer (KMD) (Moschus cupreus) in Nepal. The study that was conducted under the supervision of Professor Jiang Zhigang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing has genetically validated the Mustang lineage of musk deer as a distinct species, previously misidentified as Alpine musk deer (Moschus chrysogaster).
“Before this study, KMD had only been described from Kashmir and the associated region of India, Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan. The western distribution of KMD is up to Nuristan, northeast Afghanistan while the eastern distribution was assumed to be the Kashmir region in India. [Now] our study confirms that the eastern limit of this KMD is Mustang within the Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA), Nepal,” explained study author Singh.
Three musk deer lineages from different geographical realms of Mustang, Manang and Kaski in the Annapurna Conservation Area were investigated using molecular tools and camera trap methods, wherein the study has also established that the Manang and Kaski lineages from Central Nepal as Himalayan musk deer (HMD), (Moschus leucogaster).
Up until now, the Alpine musk deer, Himalayan musk deer and Black musk deer have been reported from Nepal. However after this study, "based on our molecular analysis and the geographical location of KMD and HMD, we have concluded that alpine musk deer do not exist in the Himalayas of Nepal or in northwest India and Pakistan,” Singh said.
The researchers have called for a review of the geographical distribution of this small and shy deer from the Himalayas and China with a simultaneous review of their IUCN Red List status. Precisely rendering musk deer taxonomy can be extremely difficult due to their highly secretive nature and the difficulty to identify them only using external appearance and morphology.
Musk deer are high demand species for poachers and in the illegal trade market their scent glands—used in high-value perfumes and traditional medicines—are believed to be more valuable than gold according to the the global wildlife trade and monitoring network TRAFFIC.
Adapted from the original article published in Mongabay: Read here...