Classification and Range
The Reeves' muntjac belongs to the family Cervidae, which includes 43 species of deer in 16 genera. Muntjacs are in the genus Muntiacus, which includes six species and about 15 subspecies. The Reeves' muntjac (also called the Chinese muntjac) is divided into two distinct subspecies: the lighter colored (M. r. reevesi), native to southeast China from the sea coast in the east to lower Sichuan in the west, and as far north as Anhwei Province and southern Shantung; and the darker colored (M. r. micrurus), residing on the island of Taiwan. Both subspecies are commonly referred to as the ReevesÍ muntjac. Five other muntjac species are widely distributed throughout southern and southeast Asia, ranging from India in the west to China in the east, and south to Sumatra, Java and other Indonesian islands.
Muntjacs are normally found in forests, areas of dense vegetation and hilly country from sea level to medium elevations. Muntjacs are generally found near water.
Shoulder Height and Length
Adult shoulder height: 16-31 inches (40-78 cm). Reeves’ muntjac average about 16 inches (40 cm)
Adult head and body length: 25-52 inches (64-132 cm)
31-62 pounds (14-28 kg).
Life span in the wild is unknown; muntjac deer live in zoos at least 18 years.
In the wild: Muntjacs forage just before sunrise and in the late evening. They browse on soft woods, grasses, leaves of low-growing plants, tender shoots and fallen fruit. Like other deer, their stomach has four chambers, through which food must pass before the digestion process is complete.
At the zoo: Herbivore pellets, alfalfa, assorted fruits and vegetables
Females become sexually mature within their first year of life. In the wild, mating takes place throughout the year. The gestation period lasts 209-220 days. Fawns weigh 20-22 ounces (550-650 gr) at birth. Fawns are usually born in dense jungle growth where they remain hidden until they can move around with their mother. They have spots to aid in their camouflage, which slowly disappear as they reach adult size.
Muntjacs are mostly solitary animals, traveling alone, in pairs and less often, in groups of up to four animals. These deer are highly territorial and use a scent gland located in front of their eyes to scent-mark territorial boundaries.
Deer of Many Colors
A muntjac's body is covered with short, soft hair, except for the ears, which are sparsely haired. Muntjacs range in color from deep brown to yellowish or grayish brown with creamy or whitish markings. The antlers emerge from long stems or pedicels which extend down the face of the deer giving it the name "rib-faced deer." Only males have antlers, which most species shed annually. Females have small bony pedicels only, covered with tufts of hair. Males and females have canine teeth in their upper jaw, the male's extending almost an inch (2.54 cm) in length. Males use these miniature tusks, which curve outward from the lips, for fighting other males or defending against a predator.
The China mainland subspecies of Reeves' muntjac is reddish chestnut in color; their limbs are blackish brown. The forehead is rufous in color and a distinct black stripe generally is present along the nape of the neck. The throat, chin and underside of the tail are white. The subspecies living on Taiwan is darker and richer in color than the mainland China species.
Bark Worse Than Its Bite
Muntjacs are constantly alert and on the lookout for predators. Due to their small size, they are not physically equipped to defend themselves against larger predators; however, if alarmed, these deer utter a series of deep, bark-like sounds, similar to a dog's bark. Because of this bark, these deer often are referred to as "barking deer." A muntjac can bark for an hour or more, warning all types of animals of the presence of a predator such as a leopard, tiger or python. It is believed that barking also enables deer to identify themselves to other deer, and is possibly used by males to communicate during rutting season.
Location at the Zoo
Reeves' muntjac can be viewed at the Asian Marsh exhibit in the Tropical Asia. The patient observer may be rewarded with a view of this tiny deer moving through the exhibit's deep foliage. While waiting for a view of the muntjac, observers can also see graceful demoiselle cranes from south central Asia, colorful red breasted geese, Indian spot billed ducks and bar-headed geese which migrate between central Asian mountains and India.
Muntjacs are hunted for their meat and skins and are considered pests in some areas because they destroy trees by ripping off the bark. With approximately 650,000 individuals alone in China, the Reeves'muntjac is not listed as endangered. The same cannot be said for other muntjac species. The highly endangered Fea's muntjac (Muntiacus feae), native to northern Thailand and Myanmar (formerly Burma), lives in a small area that is subject to uncontrolled hunting. Other muntjac species are nearing endangered species status as their habitats decline due to deforestation and overhunting.
How You Can Help!
The effort to save endangered species requires cooperation and support at the international, national, regional and individual levels. You can help in this cause. Join and become active in Woodland Park Zoo or other conservation organizations of your choice. Do not buy products made from wild-caught animal parts. Contact your elected representatives and express your views about conservation of endangered species and wild habitats. Support sustainable Madagascar industries that protect rainforest resources.
Contact Woodland Park Zoo at firstname.lastname@example.org find out other ways you can support conservation programs at the zoo. Learn other ways you can help conserve wildlife and the habitats they require for survival by visiting our How You Can Help page.
Sources and Suggested Reading
Nowak, Ronald M., ed. 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World, 5th Edition. The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London. 1,629 p.
Whitehead, G. Kenneth. 1993. The Whitehead Encyclopedia of Deer. Voyager Press, Stillwater, MN. 597 p.