Greater Mouse Deer rediscovered on Pulau Ubin after 80 years

Report on one of the findings from Marcus Chua’s honours year project on Pulau Ubin. He was strongly supported in his nocturnal field work by staff from NParks and the experienced volunteers from the Vertebrate Study Group, Nature Society (Singapore) and by Kelvin Lim at the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, NUS for the study of museum specimens.

It must be fun for him to see his work now splashed all over the papers after the NParks press release – on his birthday too. We just hope there will not be additional visitors to Ubin with cooking pots, so rangers are going to be extra vigilant.

Meanwhile, Marcus has a thesis to write…

Greater Mouse Deer sighted in Pulau Ubin,” by Ang Yiying. The Straits Times, 26 Mar 2009. Animal thought to be extinct in Singapore spotted for first time in 80 years.

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.

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

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.

[Rest of article] 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.

[Note from Robert Teo: “Actually, the local Greater Mouse Deer are not reddish but rather, more mottled brown, black and grey.”]

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.
“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.

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21 thoughts on “Greater Mouse Deer rediscovered on Pulau Ubin after 80 years

  1. Hi, I know this is off topic but I don’t know where else on this website to post it. If I found an insect which I’ve never seen before and would like help in identifying it, whom can I email the picture to?

    Thanks!

  2. Good afternoon.

    My name is yvonne and i’m from Innova Junior College. As you may know, PW has started, and my PW group has decided to base our project on the recent mouse deer findings at Pulau Ubin. It would be very useful to get some of your e-mails, like Marcus Chua’s for example, so that we may contact you for future possible interviews.

    Thank you very much! Your involvment in our project would be very much appreciated 🙂

    • Hi Yvonne,

      It’s great that you’re interested in the greater mouse deer in Pulau Ubin. I’ll be contacting you via the e-mail address you provided.

      Cheers,
      Marcus

  3. Hi marcus, I am Melanie and I’m from Pioneer Junior College. Me and my Project work group are embarking on
    conserving the mouse deer in Singapore. We need more info because we are currently studying the status of this mousedeer (eg: whether or not it is endangered and extinct) and what conservation efforts are currently being carried out

    It would be nice if we can get a few contacts or emails of those who are involved in this mouse deer findings/sighting so that we will be able to contact you for future reference.

    Thank you very much! Your involvment in our project would be very much appreciated 🙂

  4. I really like to eat Greater Malay Mouse Deer (Tragulus napu) so much, taste is nice. juicy. I ate this animal so many times before. From the point of you it’s ethical or not to consume it?

    • Hi brabo, from some sources, the population status of the greater mouse deer was (or is still) listed as being near threatened. This is because of the loss of their forest habitat in this part of the world and people hunting them for food.

      In my opinion, the continued consumption of these species on the brink of being threatened may just push them over to the other side. These days, every one can do their part in protecting nature. If you like a nice juicy meal, why not stick to the many food choices that are responsibly farmed?

  5. hello, i am doing a blog on the lesser mousedeer.
    i know that there are very little number of them in singapore and would like to know more about them.
    like, what are the dangers they face and how we can make sure they are safe.pls do reply asap.thank you.

    • Hi Kabila,

      Good job starting a blog on the lesser mouse deer. I have sent a reply to you via e-maill. Do let me know if you have any more questions. Cheers.

  6. The mousedeer is endengrous species especially at borneo which is located at Sabah and Sarawak Malaysia. They hunting for food without mercy. Why I say so because they also hunt the young one and finally nothing left. I think I want to rare this species to populated it back. I need a guideline on how we can start a empty forest for them and what kind of food to feed them. I also look for their natural behaviour. This is important in order for the animal breeding. As we know that this kind of species is very sensetive to human and easily get stress. I hope this project is success and other agency welcome to help to set up a thing.

  7. At last after 80 yrs our government managed to buy some mousedeer from Malaysia and/or Indonesia and transplanted /released them in Palau Ubin to make it look like a reemergence of a once-extinct species and gain some positive publicity in the international media. : )

  8. Oh yes, the mouse deer is such a cute & lovable animal. It is a shame that for generations in the past the animal was hunted down by locals for its supposedly juicy meat to near extinction in Singapore.

    I also heard about the presence of the leopard cat carcass lying somewhere along Jln Bahar presumably run over by a vehicle. I am hopeful that pockets of such beautifully patterned animals are surviving in forests fringing our rural areas. Terry PY Tang

  9. Hi All

    It was wonderful and inspiring to read all the comments written by so many people about the Mouse Deer. I had read the newspaper item about the sighting, way back in 2009 and written a short children’s story about the Mouse deer. I hope to publish it now in the hope that the project ‘save the mouse deer’ may get some support. Can anybody direct me to interested parties/publishers/ Singapore tourism
    Please email me at sunitabhamray@hotmail.com

    Sunita

  10. Terry Tang

    It is wrong to assume that mouse deer are unable to swim. The fact they are found near water bodies like ponds and lakes imply they use them to escape large predators. I ever saw on a British documentary film on mouse deer in which one jumped into a lake and hid at the bottom to escape a pursuing predator animal.

  11. I believe I spotted a mouse deer in the swampy areas around West Coast park a few years ago. I cant be sure if it’s a lesser or greater mouse deer. If there is anyone doing a project on mouse deer, I would like to suggest that they consider the West Coat park area as well.

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