2. Deer on the brink

Posted: 23 March 2001

A remarkable recovery conservation programme for the world's most endangered deer is being engineered in the Philippines, where the Spotted deer (Cervus alfredi) has been wiped out in at least 95 per cent of its former range in the West Visayas region of the Philippines - itself one of the world's highest priority areas of conservation concern. Covering the islands of Cebu, Negros, Guimaras, Panay and Masbate, it has as many recently extinct and endangered vertebrates as the rest of the Philippines put together.

The decline of the Spotted deer was not fully appreciated until Roger Cox of the IUCN Conservation Project undertook a three-month survey in 1985. This led to two main recommendations: the setting up of a new national park in west Panay to protect the largest remaining wild population, and an international co-operative captive-breeding programme. The latter was initiated in 1990 with 13 animals (all ex-'pets' donated by local private owners) in two local breeding centres established for this purpose.

By December 2000 that number had grown by 630 per cent to 82 animals; more than half of which were born in captivity in the Philippines and in several leading zoos in five European countries.Spotted deer© W.L.R. Oliver/Flora and Fauna InternationalThe Spotted deer was also adopted as the 'flagship species' for promoting increased conservation interest and assistance for this most dire conservation region. The programme has introduced some new, and widely copied collaborative protocols and it has gone a long way towards establishing a securely managed population of these animals. In the process, it has also engendered huge local interest in the conservation of this species, and the habitats and issues it represents which were on few local agendas before this time.

William Oliver

William Oliver is Chairman of the World Conservation Union's Pigs, Peccaries and Hippo Specialist Group; South East Asia Regional Co-ordinator of the Deer Specialist Group; and Director of Fauna and Flora's International Philippine Biodiversity Conservation Programme.