Przewalskium albirostriswhite-lipped deer(Also: Thorold's deer)

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Geographic Range

White-lipped deer are native to the Tibetan Plateau region of west central China. (Massicot, 2001; Nowak, 1991)

Habitat

Przewalskium albirostris inhabit the high altitude rhododendron and coniferous forests and alpine meadows of the Tibetan Plateau. Rough terrain and areas of high hunting pressure result in a patchy distribution of these deer throughout their preferred habitats. (Nowak, 1991; Schaller, 1998)

  • Range elevation
    3500 to 5000 m
    11482.94 to 16404.20 ft

Physical Description

White-lipped deer, as their name implies, have a characteristic pure white marking around their mouth and on the underside of the throat. The inner side of the legs and the underside of the body is also a whitish color. The overall coloration is dark brown during the summer and lightens during the winter. The fur, which lacks the typical undercoat hairs, is thick and course. A saddle-like appearance is created on the center of the deer's back, which is caused by the hair lying in the opposite direction. The fur coat is twice as long in the winter as it is during the summer.

Przewalskium albirostris are one of the largest members of the deer family. Unlike other members of the family, P. albirostris have broad rounded hooves much like those of a cow. These hooves are specialized for climbing on steep, rough terrain. Females have a tuft of hair between their narrow, lance shaped ears. The 5 to 6 pointed antler rack of males protrudes forward and is flattened, like those of caribou. The white colored (rarely light brown) rack can weigh up to 7 kilograms and reach l.3 meters. (Hoffman, August 2001; Nowak, 1991; Parker, 1990)

  • Range mass
    130 to 140 kg
    286.34 to 308.37 lb
  • Range length
    190 to 200 cm
    74.80 to 78.74 in

Reproduction

Most of the year, males and females travel in separate herds. During the breeding season, or rut, around October through November, males intermingle with female herds. Mixed herds at the peak of the mating season have been reported to range between 50 and 300 deer. Males expend large amounts of energy during the breeding season in mating and in male-male aggressive encounters. Most males lose weight during this period. Males compete amongst themselves for access to females.

White-lipped deer are born from May through late June. The well developed baby stays with its mother and is not weaned for at least 10 months.

  • Breeding interval
    White-lipped deer breed once yearly.
  • Breeding season
    White-lipped deer breed in October and November.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 2
  • Average number of offspring
    1
  • Range gestation period
    7.67 to 8.33 months
  • Average weaning age
    10 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    15 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    15 months

Young white-lipped deer, which are able to stand only a half hour after birth, stay and travel with their mothers in female herds. Two to three days after birth, the mother will take her fawn into a more sheltered area away from the birth place. The baby is left to rest at times but is never out of the mother's sight. If she sees that something is near the baby, the mother will attempt to cause a distraction by running in the opposite direction. After the fawn is weaned at about 10 months of age, it joins the sex-segregated herds. Young males move to the male herd, young females stay in the herd in which they were raised and travel with their mothers, though they are no longer dependent upon them. (Harris, et al., 1999; Schaller, 1998)

  • Parental Investment
  • precocial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

White-lipped deer have been recorded living 19 years in captivity. Many people in China are raising these deer on farms and they are kept in zoos for public display. Those in the wild may for 16 to 18 years. (Massicot, 2001; Nowak, 1991)

Behavior

Przewalskium albirostris are most active during the day. They are most often found in high, remote areas where human influence is minimal. They travel in herds, in groups separated by gender and age much like red deer (Cervus elaphus). Juvenile males travel as one small group. Females who are pregnant, those still nursing their young, and pre-adult females travel in another group. Older males travel alone. During the mating season mixed-sex groups occur. (Parker, 1990; Schaller, 1998)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

White-lipped deer are exclusively herbivorous. They graze mainly on grasses but will also eat other foliage. Foods eaten include: grasses mainly Stipa, Kobresia, and Carex spp., sedges and herbs. (Harris, et al., 1999; Massicot, 2001)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • wood, bark, or stems

Predation

White-lipped deer are herd animals and, therefore, rely upon the vigilance of every herd member in detecting predators. They are fast and agile runners and can defend themselves with their sharp hooves. Female white-lipped deer will attempt to distract predators from their young by causing a disturbance and running away from where the fawn is hidden. (Laidler and Laidler, 1996)

Ecosystem Roles

White-lipped deer play an important role as prey animals for large predators. They also limit vegetation growth and determine vegetative structure through their grazing. (Laidler and Laidler, 1996; Schaller, 1998)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Aside from being hunted as a food source by Chinese and Tibetan peoples, Przewalskium albirostris are poached for their enormous antlers. The antlers and other body parts are used as a source of oriental medicine. (Massicot, 2001)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known negative effects of white-lipped deer.

Conservation Status

According to a team studying in the Tibetan Plateau, numbers of Przewalskium albirostris may be increasing. This team assessed population sizes during the periods of 1990-1992 and 1997. They observed 80-89 deer during September of 1997, compared to only 16 (no more than 50) in early 1990's. This species is otherwise thought to be extremely endangered and rare. (Harris, et al., 1999; Parker, 1990)

Other Comments

Przewalskium albirostris is known as "shor" by the Tibetan people. The species was discovered and named by Przewalski during the later 1870's. W. G. Thorold later described the same deer, not knowing that it had already been described, he named it Thorold's deer, Cervus thoroldi, in 1891. (Laidler and Laidler, 1996; Schaller, 1998)

Contributors

Pam Ehler (author), University of Northern Iowa, Jim Demastes (editor), University of Northern Iowa.

Glossary

Palearctic

living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
dominance hierarchies

ranking system or pecking order among members of a long-term social group, where dominance status affects access to resources or mates

drug

a substance used for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

folivore

an animal that mainly eats leaves.

food

A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

mountains

This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

polygynous

having more than one female as a mate at one time

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

sexual ornamentation

one of the sexes (usually males) has special physical structures used in courting the other sex or fighting the same sex. For example: antlers, elongated tails, special spurs.

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

threatened

The term is used in the 1994 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals to refer collectively to species categorized as Endangered (E), Vulnerable (V), Rare (R), Indeterminate (I), or Insufficiently Known (K) and in the 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals to refer collectively to species categorized as Critically Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN), or Vulnerable (VU).

viviparous

reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born

References

Harris, R., D. Pletscher, C. Loggers, D. Miller. 1999. Status and Trends of Tibetan Plateau Mammalian Fauna, Yeniugou, China. Biological Conservation, 87: 13-19.

Hoffman, B. August 2001. "The Ulimate Ungulate Page" (On-line). Accessed October 25, 2001 at http://www.ultimateungulate.com/thorolddeer.html.

Laidler, L., K. Laidler. 1996. China's Treatened Wildlife. London: Blandford.

Massicot, P. 2001. "Animal Info" (On-line). Accessed October 30, 2001 at http://www.animalinfo.org/species/artiperi/cervalbi.htm.

Nowak, R. 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World (5th Edition). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Parker, S. 1990. Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Schaller, G. 1998. Wildlife of the Tibetan Steppe. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.