Philippine Spotted Deer
Philippine Spotted Deer (Cervus alfredi)
One of the world’s rarest mammals lives in the dwindling
forest of Panay Island. It is the Philippine spotted deer (Cervus alfredi),
considered by many as the most endangered deer in the planet.
Also called Prince Alfred’s Rusa, the Philippine spotted deer which is only about 80 cm in height (shoulder) has soft and moderately long hair covering its spotted dark brown body. Its most distinct physical characteristic is its oval yellowish white spots on its back and sides.
This species has long been classified as endangered, which means they have been reduced in number to a critical level, or whose habitats have been damaged, altered or reduced.
Thousands of Philippine spotted deer roamed around an area covering about 1200 miles of grasslands in the Negros provinces many years ago. But they preferred to stay within the vicinity of extensive tracts of original forests where they could seek cover. They fed on young shoots of cogon grass and on the young leaves and buds of low forest growth.
The population of the Philippine spotted dear declined after they fell prey to hunters in the area. Also, the kaingin system, an agricultural method in the highlands led to the further decrease in numbers. From 1960 to 1970, most of the country’s forests, including those in Panay Island, lost their trees to both legal and illegal logging operations.
Some 60 years ago, more than half of the country’s 30 million hectares was blanketed with forests, and the forest-to-man ratio was then 1.13 hectares per Filipino. In 1990, the DENR recorded only 6.7 million hectares of forestland in the entire archipelago, and the forest-to-man ratio has alarmingly dropped to 0.1 hectare per Filipino.
By 1985, a survey reported that only a small population of the Philippine spotted deer was found in the remote regions of Panay. The deer was believed to have been wiped out in at least 95 percent of its former range in Panay Island. In 1990, the Negros Forest and Ecological Foundation (NFEF) found only 13 deer living in the area. Fortunately, subsequent conservation programs saw the increase in population to 73 by December 1997 and to about 200 today.
Efforts are now being made to replenish the stock in captivity. With the help of German, French and Australian organizations, NFEF has established a project to ensure the survival and continuous existence of the deer. This project, called the International Philippine Spotted Deer Conservation Program, established local breeding centers in Panay.
But the survival of the Philippine Spotted Deer in the wildlife requires more than a breeding program. One recommendation is to establish a national park where the Philippine spotted deer can roam freely again, away from poachers, loggers, and kaingineros. The people involved in the conservation program have only one place in mind – the Northwest Panay Peninsula on the boundary of Aklan and Antique, where the last low-elevation dipterocarp forest in the Negros-Panay region exists.