Preliminary findings of behavioral patterns in captive alpine musk deer (Moschus sifanicus) and prospects for future conservation
Turk. J. Vet. Anim. Sci. 2010; 34(2): 111-117 © TÜBİTAK, doi:10.3906/vet-0707-2
Captive farming of alpine musk deer (Moschus sifanicus) in China has been used for conservation and harvesting of musk since the mid 1950s. Despite this long history, management practices and captive breeding have been primarily based on trial and error due to lack of behavioral and ecological information about this vulnerable species. Understanding behavioral patterns plays a vital part in determining appropriate management systems; hence the aim of this study was to determine the effect of captivity on behavioral patterns of alpine musk deer by comparing wild-caught and the captive-born alpine musk deer. From August 2002 to January 2003, the behavioral patterns of 30 wild-caught (WC) and 15 captive-bred (CB) adult alpine musk deer were recorded at Xinglongshan Musk Deer Farm (XMDF), located in Xinglongshan National Nature Reserve, Gansu province, China. Focal sampling was used to observe the frequencies of 12 behavior categories. The behavioral patterns of WC and CB musk deer were found to be similar; however, when gender was considered, male WC deer showed a significantly high er frequency of agonistic nteraction. These preliminary results suggest that captivity has had no immediate impact on the behavioral patterns of captive alpine musk deer despite 10 generations of captivity. Therefore, the alpine musk deer is not suited for domestication and further investigation into the effectiveness of musk deer farming for the purpose of harvesting musk should be undertaken.
Animals were housed in outdoor enclosures (10 m × 10 m), in groups ranging from 5 to 7 individuals. Each enclosure contained a central yard with 7 adjoining indoor cells (4 m²). Wire mesh separated enclosures enabled animals to see, hear, and smell each other. Human interaction was limited to 5 min at dawn and dusk during which animals were fed and husbandry duties were conducted.
During the study, males and females were housed separately from March to October; both CB and WB individuals, however, were housed in the same enclosures. From November to February, one male was introduced into each of the female enclosures and the males introduced into the female enclosure were both CB and WB, as with commercial breeding practices.