Large-antlered muntjac

Shortly after the scientific discovery of the Saola, biologists started to pay more attention to this region. After all, if these forests could hide an animal as large and peculiar looking as the Saola, what else might await discovery? In 1994 biologists made a stunning announcement: A second large mammal species entirely unknown to science had been found in the Annamites. This new species was a curious find: It was a giant form of an otherwise diminutive deer family. The muntjacs are a type of small deer that range widely over Asia. The most common form, the red muntjac (Muntiacus muntjak), also known as the barking deer, is typical of most muntjacs. It weighs approximately 60 lbs, has prominent pedicles, and enlarged upper canines. Strange as it may seem to imagine a deer with tusks, that is exactly the case. These upper canines are used in territorial battles between males and can inflict serious damage.

The new muntjac species was similar to the red muntjac—but twice the size. Everything about this deer was gigantic. In addition to weighing more than 120 lbs, it had enormous antlers (for a muntjac) and canines that would shame any common muntjac—or even your average-sized vampire. It was called the Large-antlered muntjac, although the common name giant muntjac is also used. Scientists named it Megamuntiacus vuquangensis. The genus name indicates that this is indeed a mega-muntjac. The specific epithet refers to the Vu Quang protected area in Vietnam where the species was first discovered. Note that this is the same place where the Saola was first uncovered. And as with the Saola, it didn’t take long for biologists to discover the Large-antlered muntjac on the other side of the border in Laos. Through camera trapping biologists soon had the first pictures of this new deer species.

What else do we know about this giant deer? As with the Saola the answer is not much. This answer will be a recurring theme in the Species Spotlight posts. We have a rough idea of its distribution. The historical range of the Large-antlered muntjac extends further south than other Annamite endemics. However, evidence suggests that it has been extirpated from much of its former range, and today it is believed to survive only in isolated pockets of the Annamites. Almost nothing is known about the basic ecology of the species. However, given the high hunting pressure that occurs across the Annamite Range, it is certain that current numbers are severely depressed from historic levels. The Large-antlered muntjac is listed under the IUCN Red List as Endangered. It is urgent that biologists conduct surveys to assess the status of remaining populations and implement conservation actions that will protect them. Otherwise, like the Saola, this species could be lost only two decades after it was discovered by science.

Large-antlered muntjac camera trap photo
Large-antlered muntjac camera trap photo

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