Cervus schomburgki


Kingdom Animalia

Photo from West Berlin Zoo though Lothar Schlawe (1911).

Phylum Chordata 
Class Mammalia
Order Artiodactyla
Family Cervidae
English Name Schomburgk's Deer
Czech Name Jelen Schomburgkův
Dutch Name Schomburgkhert
French Name Cerf de Schomburgk
German Name Schomburgk-Hirsch
Spanish Name Ciervo de Schomburgk
Thai Name Nuar Sa Mun, Sa Mun
Authority Blyth, 1863
Synonyms Thaocervus schomburgki, Rucervus schomburgki
Comments After the discovery of fresh antlers in 1991, the Schomburgk's deer may possibly survive in Laos. Until there is scientific proof of a living specimen The Extinction Website does not recognise its rediscovery and acknowledges that the species is extinct. 

The Schomburgk's Deer had a graceful body with beautiful antlers making it one of the most beautiful deer. It had a body length of 180 cm (6 ft.), a shoulder height of 104 cm (3.4 ft.) and a tail length of 10,3 cm (4 in.). The Schomburgk's deer had a weight of 100-120 kg (220-264 lb.). Their upper parts had an uniform brown colour, with lighter underparts. The legs and area between the antlers had a reddish tinge. The short tail has a bright white ventral surface. The antlers have a length 32-83 cm along the outside curve and there are at least five tines on each antler. The females didn't have antlers. This deer had two equal sized toes on their hooves. (Nowak, 1999; Huffman, 2004)

Lifestyle They lived in small herds consisting of a single adult male, a few females, and their young (Huffman, 2004). The Schomburgk's deer spent most of the day resting in shaded areas. The small herds were feeding in the early evening to the morning. Densely vegetated areas were avoided and most activity occurred on the open swampy plains. When flooding occurred during the rainy season, the Schomburgk's deer were forced to move to higher pieces of land, which often turned into 'islands'. Hunters, who would surround the temporary landmass and attempt to kill everything they could, frequently used these islands. (Nowak, 1999) 
Range & Habitat The Schomburgk's deer may once have occurred as far north as Yunnan (China) and Laos, but is known with certainty only from south-central Thailand. This deer occurred along the Chao Phya River plains around Bangkok and the surrounding areas, they roamed the area from Samut Prakarn to Sukhothai and in the east they were found in Nakhon Nayok to Chachengsao. In the west they were found from Suphan Buri to Kanchanaburi. In Thailand it inhabited swampy plains with long grass, cane, and shrubs. It avoided densely vegetated areas. (Nowak, 1999)
Food This deer-species was a grazer, but did also eat fruits and leaves.
Reproduction As far as I know there isn't anything known about their reproduction and life cycle.  
History & Population The Schomburgk's deer was described by Blyth in 1863 and named after Sir Robert H. Schomburgk who was the British consul in Bangkok from 1857-1864.

Once they were abundant in Thailand. Commercial production of rice for export began in the late nineteenth century in Thailand and by the early 1900s it had led to the loss of nearly all grassland and swamp areas this deer depended on. Intensive hunting pressure at the turn of the century restricted the species further, especially when the herds were forced to crowd onto islands during the floods. By 1920 the Schomburgk's deer was virtually extinct, a few stragglers being reported on the Pu Kio range, where it was hunted by locals (Day, 1981). The last wild individuals are thought to have died around 1932. (Huffman, 2004; Nowak, 1999; World Conservation Monitoring Centre, 1996) The last known specimen of the Schomburgk's deer, an adult male, was kept as a pet at a temple in the Samut Sakhon province of Thailand. A drunk local killed this male in 1938 (Huffman, 2004). No confirmed reports of this species have since been heard and it is formally declared extinct in the 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, although rumours continue to suggest a remnant population may still survive.

During a visit to a Chinese medicine shop in a relativley remote area of Laos in February 1991, Laurent Chazée, an agronomist with the United Nations, saw a pair of antlers for sale. Not recognising the species, he photographed the antlers. The shop owner told Chazée the antlers has come from a nearby district and that the animal had been killed in 1990. Later Chazée identified the antlers as coming from a Schomburgk's deer. (Schoering, 1995) Therefore it is possible that the Schomburgk's deer survives in Laos (MacPhee &  Flemming, 1999). Further research is needed.

Extinction Causes From its discovery in 1862 to its extinction 70 years later, only 200 skins were exported, and though this toll was hardly enough in itself to account for the Schomburgk's deer extinction. European interest did add to existing pressures on this rare animal. The antlers made a spectacular trophy, but were also eagerly sought for their supposed medical and magical properties. The antlers figured particularly in the Chinese medicine trade. Habitat change was as least as decisive for the extinction of the Schomburgk's deer. (Day, 1981)
Conservation Attempts The Schomburgks deer has been kept in captivity in some countries like Thailand, France (Paris) and Germany (Berlin, Hamburg). In 1870, the now disappeared Hamburg Zoological Garden (Germany) was the first zoo to breed the Schomburgk's deer (Reichenbach, 2002). Sadly, no Schomburgk's deer survived in captivity..

There is a forested region in area of Laos where the antlers discovered in 1991 purportedly originated. Local people consider this site to have strong animal spirits and hunting is prohibited there. This may explain why the Schomburgk's deer possibly survived in that area. (Schoering, 1995)

Museum Specimens Paris Natural History Museum (Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle) in France. This specimen was brought back of Siam, current Thailand, in 1862, by Bocourt and lived in the menagerie of the Paris Natural History Museum where he died in 1868. It is the single mounted specimen in the entire world. Besides this mounted specimen only a few skulls and antlers survive. (Day, 1981)
Relatives The Schomburgk's deer is thought to be closely related to the barasingha or swamp deer (Cervus duvauceli). (Schoering, 1995) Previously found throughout the drainage basins of the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers, the barasingha is today restricted to southern Nepal and northern India. Three subspecies are recognised: the wetland barasingha (Cervus duvaucelii duvaucelii) in India and Nepal, the upland barasingha (C. d. branderi) restricted to a single population in Madhya Pardesh, India; and the critically endangered C. d. ranjitsinhi found in only a single population in Assam, northeast India. (ARKive, 2006)

Photo: Barasingha in Berlin Zoo, Germany. Photographed by F. Spangenberg (Der Irbis) in November 2005. The image is released under the GNU Free Documentation License.


The Extinction Forum - Schomburgk's Deer

Paris Natural History Museum (Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle)

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Cervus schomburgki

Schomburgk's deer - An Ultimate Ungulate Fact Sheet

References ARKive. Barasingha (Cervus duvaucelii). Downloaded on 22 April 2006 from: http://www.arkive.org/species/GES/mammals/Cervus_duvaucelii

Huffman, B. 2004. Schomburgk's deer - An Ultimate Ungulate Fact Sheet.  <www.ultimateungulate.com> Downloaded on 22 April 2006.

Day, D., 1981, The Doomsday Book of Animals, Ebury Press, London.

Deer Specialist Group 1996. Cervus duvaucelii. In: IUCN 2004. 2004 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 22 April 2006.

MacPhee, R.D.E. and Flemming, C. 1999. Requiem Æternam. The last five hundred years of mammalian species extinctions. In: R.D.E. MacPhee (ed.) Extinctions in Near Time, pp.333-371. Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, New York.

Nowak, Ronald M. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, 6th edition. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1936 pp. ISBN 0-801-85789-9

Reichenbach, H. 2002. Lost Menageries - Why and how zoos disappear (part 2). International Zoo News Vol. 49/4 (No. 317) June 2002. Available online at  http://www.zoonews.ws/IZN/317/IZN-317.htm.

Schoering, W.B., 1995. Swamp Deer resurfaces. Wildlife Conservation, vol 98, December, p22.

Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder (eds). 2005. Mammal Species of  the World. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2,142 pp. Available online at http://nmnhgoph.si.edu/msw.

World Conservation Monitoring Centre 1996. Cervus schomburgki. In: IUCN 2004. 2004 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 22 April 2006.

Last updated: 22nd April 2006.

This page is a part of The Extinction Website. © 2006.

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