Eld's Deer

Eld's Deer
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Cervidae
Subfamily: Cervinae
Genus: Panolia
Species: P. eldii
Binomial name
Panolia eldii
(M'Clelland, 1842)

Eld's Deer (Panolia eldii)[2], also known as the Thamin or Brow-antlered Deer, is an endangered species of deer indigenous to southeastern Asia.[1] The species was first discovered by westerners in Manipur in India in 1839. The original scientific name Cervus eldi was coined in 1844[3] in honour of Lt. Percy Eld – a British officer.[citation needed] There are three subspecies of the Eld's Deer:[1]

  • Panolia eldii thamin: The Burmese Brow-antlered Deer is found in Myanmar, and westernmost Thailand. Described by Lydekker in 1915.
  • Panolia eldii siamensis: The Thai Brow-antlered Deer is found in Cambodia, China, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. Should perhaps be treated as a separate species.[4] The population on the Chinese island of Hainan is sometimes considered another subspecies, P. e. hainanus, but this is not supported by genetic evidence.[5]



The following measurements have been reported for the Eld's deer:[6][7][8][9]

  • Head–body length: 150–180 cm (59–71 in)
  • Shoulder height is 110–125 cm (43–49 in)
  • Tail length is 20–30 cm (8–12 in)
  • Weighs 125–175 kg (276–386 lb)
  • The antler length is 99 cm (39 in)

The deer are generally of medium size and are similar to size and shape of the Barasingha. The species have very regal and graceful Cervus physique. Its legs are thin and long, has a long body with a large head on a thin neck. The throat of the males have a thick mane of long hair. Stags are bigger and heavier than the females. Their coat, rough and coarse, changes colour with the season; in summer the colour is [reddish brown while in winter it turns into dark brown with males tending to be darker than the females. The tail is short in length and rump has no distinct patch. Despite these features, they're actually related to the Père David's Deer[2]The antlers, bow or lyre shaped, don't grow upwards but tend to grow outwards and then inwards; a smaller branch grows towards the front of the head. The brow tine is especially long and noticeable. The Brow-antlered Deer is so named since they have a long brow tine.They shed their antlers every year with the largest size attained during the breeding season.[6][8][9]

Conservation status

The conservation status of three subspecies of Eld's Deer are described country wise:


The Keibul Lamjao National Park (KLNP) covering an area of 40 km2 (15.4 sq mi)of marshland called the Phumdis within the larger Loktak Lake was gazetted in 1977 specifically to protect the Cervus eldi eldi or the Sangai in Manipuri language. Over time, public awareness and local support have evolved for conserving the subspecies of the endemic endangered Elds' Deer. Concerted actions have been initiated to stop encroachment of the park and adequate security arrangements have been made to stop poaching. This fact is very somberly presented in a story form in a popular children's magazine called Chandamama, which gives a first person symbolic narrative by the affected 'Deer' itself. The final conclusion by the Deer quoted, below, concisely puts the security provided in the park in a proper perspective appreciation.[10]

Thanks to these youngsters who live nearby", he said. I was happy and felt indebted to the youngsters for saving our lives. My friend added that these people really loved and respected the Sangai deer. They believed that killing the Sangai was an unpardonable sin. According to a Manipuri legend, the Sangai are the link between humans and nature. So, killing us would mean breaking a bond. My friend informed me that people concerned about animals like us have formed a group. They teach others to protect animals, too.
The news that people are trying their best to save the phumdis, deer like me, and the Loktak Lake, infuses new hope in me. How nice of them!' I thought.
Anyway, it is getting dark and my friend and I have to return to our herd. And those of you who are around can enjoy our dancing gait as we trot back home. It would be great if I could meet you again. We could dance together at KLNP, if you can make it here some time!

The home range of Brow-antlered deer in the park is confined to 15–20 km2 (5.8–7.7 sq mi) in south–western part of the lake where Phumdis on which the deer thrive are abundant. A study conducted of the proportion, on the basis of body weight of stag, hind and fawn, is reported to be 4:2:1. The Sangai distribution dictated by shelter and availability of food is high near Toyaching, Pabotching and Yang Kokchambi area.[11]

A census conducted by the wildlife wing of the Forest Department in 1975, 1990, 2000 and 2003 has shown that the Eld's Deer (Sangai) population was 14, 76, 162 and 180 respectively. The 2000 survey of 162 deer comprised 54 stags, 76 hinds and 32 fawns.[11][12] The reports of 2004 indicate a figure of 182 as referred in another section here. This shows that the subspecie in Manipur is on the rise.

A successful captive breeding programme is underway at the Alipore Zoological Gardens in Kolkata and many specimens of the deer have been bred here.[6][7]


For protection of the thamin species of the Eld's Deer, Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary and Shwesettaw Wildlife Sanctuary (both protected sanctuaries) and Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park were chosen. Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary with an area of 104 sq mi (269.4 km2) in Myanmar's central plains, 125 sq mi (323.7 km2)northwest of the city of Mandalay has Indaing deciduous broadleaf forest dominated by Dipterocarpus tuberculatus and is the habitat for four species of deer: thamin, muntjac (Muntiacus muntjac), hog deer (Cervus porcinus), and sambhar (Cervus unicolor). Subject to indiscriminate hunting in the past (till the ownership of guns was controlled after 1960s), the thamin, highly threatened, now has a population of about 1,000. Initially, the Smithsonian National Zoo acquired a few thamin for observations and subsequently shifted a few to its Conservation and Research Center at Front Royal, Virginia for biological study.[1][13] For a cross–check of the biological studies done at the research center, the Smithsonian Institution selected the Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary, a protected park. Special studies on the Thamin deer were conducted by the conservation scientists headed by Christen Wemmer of the Smithsonian. They gathered a lot of details on the biology and survival of the species by duly correlating with the changes that occurred in the ecology of the region of the Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary. Under the research project study, the ecology of Thamin and a series of training courses in biodiversity were organised. The Thamin's life cycle studies on radio–collared 11 male and eight female deer, supported by field studies by the scientists, revealed that.[13]:

  1. Its life cycle was well tuned to the seasonal rhythm of its environment
  2. An average group size of 2.5 per 1.6 km2 (0.6 sq mi) deer (mother with young) appeared to be the basic social unit
  3. Males were in velvet when they were in bachelor groups,
  4. After new grass sprouts in the ashes of February and March fires they gathered to graze on tender shoots
  5. Males moved through the herds seeking receptive females
  6. March and April were the months of rut
  7. Males with their newly hardened antlers were in a state of anorexia and sexual obsession during this period
  8. They operated in a specific home range of about 3.5 sq mi (9.1 km2) and 2.7 sq mi (7.0 km2)
  9. When food was short some animals migrated into farmland for a few months before returning to the park and during day they hid in small patches of degraded forest and at night they forayed into the croplands

Smithsonian National Zoological Park, which has been closely associated with the preservation of the Cervis eldii eldii Thamin deer, has in its conclusive observations stated:[14]

Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary (CWS) in Myanmar (Burma) protects the largest population of the endangered Eld's Deer left in the world. It also represents one of the largest remaining patches of dipterocarp forest–a dry forest that is one of the most threatened and least protected forest types globally. Local people rely on these forests for their livelihood. The forests provide wood, food, shelter, and medicine. Restricting people's access to these forests by declaring them protected is probably not a sustainable solution and will put greater burden on lower income households potentially increasing poverty. However, if people continue to use and abuse forests unregulated they will disappear and with them the Eld's deer and many other species.

But with external funding for such protection drying up the efforts had not yielded encouraging results and the conclusion was that conditions were not conducive even to protect the protected parks given the political and funding situation in the country.

The picture is not encouraging in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam either. The Burmese Brow-antlered Deer is 'Near Threatened' and still occurs in reasonable numbers.


The situation of protected areas for the Eld's Deer is much worse in Thailand and along its triborder area with Lao PDR and Cambodia; it is feared that it may be difficult to prevent the “decline and likely extirpation of Eld's deer from the wild in Thailand”.[1]

Other countries

In Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam, Eld's deer was hunted for traditional medicinal trade (particularly of this subspecies) and to meet demand for captive animals (especially from zoos) and forest habitat was degraded (deforested) to meet agriculture and infrastructural developments. The subpopulation in Hainan considered as a subspecies by Chinese conservationists was almost extinct in the wild.[1]


In the last over 200 years of known history, the number of this species has declined substantially. The species categorization as per IUCN is EN, which is based on estimated rates of the decline of this species assessed in three generations (supposed to be at least 15 years period) for all the species and the average value is reported to be in excess of 50%. Based on this assessment IUCN has categorized the specie EN (Endangered). In this assessment for determining the specie-level, the numbers in India were considered to be numerically small (also found to be increasing) and hence the numbers of wild populations only of Eld's deer Thamin in Myanmar and Siamensis of Cambodia, Lao and Viet Nam were considered. The decline in population has been mainly attributed to hunting. In the case of the Myanmar thamin, the decline is discernible but not striking. The categorization is considered a middle of the ground situation considering the extensively diverse conditions and conservation trends in the geographically isolated and distinct populations of this species.[1][8]

Brief particulars of the three species

Panolia eldi eldi or Sangai in Manipur
Breeding and gestation period (conception to birth)

Female Eld's deer are generally found alone or in pairs with their young. But during the mating season females and their young gather in herds of up to 50 individuals. Males also move around singly except during mating season. When rutting takes place, males compete with each other to gain control of a harem of females that they can then mate with. After a long gestation period, normally, a single calf is born. The young ones have white spots at birth which fade away as it grows; they are weaned at 7 months of age, become sexually mature from 18 months of age onwards. The gestation period for three species are defined.[1][8][9]

  • For Manipur Deer, it is 220 to 240 days with calving between October and end of December
  • For the Burmese Deer Thamin it is 220 to 240 days with calving between October and November
  • For the Siamensis Deer in Thailand, Laos, Cambodian Siamese deer the gestation period is from 220 to 240 days with calving between October and November
Panolia eldi thamin of Burma and Thailand
Panolia eldi siamens of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam

Numbers in the wild

In India, the Eld's Deer species called Sangai locally, is confined to the peculiar floating bog called Phumdis in Loktak Lake and is numbered at less than a few hundred animals. The subspecies 'siamensis', which occupied the vast monsoon forests from Thailand to Hainan was extinct in Thailand, were very few numbers in Laos and Cambodia, and almost extinct in Vietnam. A few hundred deer were protected in a large enclosure in Hainan Island, China.[6][1][13] The estimated figures are:

  • 180 animals (2004) of Rucervus eld eldi or Sangai in Manipur
  • 2,200 (United Nations estimate) – 1992 survey for Rucervus eldi thamin of Burma and Thailand
  • In low tens (2004) – for Rucervus eldi siamensis, considered as possibly extinct in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

Numbers in captivity (zoos)

In 2003, the estimated number of captive animals of the three subspecies in zoos were:[1]

  • 180 Panolia eldi eldi
  • 1100 Panolia eldii thamin
  • 23 Panolia eldii siamens.


Peculiarities to each subspecies include the following.[1]

  • Panolia eldi eldi which in Manipur is Wetland associated. It has adaptations of the hoops (feet) to move easily in their marshland (boggy ground) habitat of phumdis. It lives in significantly different ecology vis-à-vis other subspecies and in divergent morphology. Antlers shed every year and reach their largest size during the breeding season.
  • The Panolia eldi thamin of Burma and Thailand are not associated with wetland and live in three forest types: indaing forest (dominated by the tree Dipterocarpus tuberculatus) equivalent to Deciduous Dipterocarp Forest (Dipterocarp trees which belong to the family Dipterocarpaceae are resinous trees that are found in the old world tropics) of Indochina and Thailand; deciduous forests of dry (thandahat); and mixed (teak).
  • The Panolia eldii siamens of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam are not associated with wetland. They are found in Deciduous Dipterocarp Forest.


Some observations on the habits of Eld's Deer common to all three sub species are a) active most of the time, seek shelter from the midday sun and migrate for short periods seeking water in the dry season and food in the growing season, b)seek areas that are seasonally burned in search of new grasses that grow after the burn, c) their diet comprises a variety of grasses, herbaceous plants, and shoots, grasses, fruit and wetland plants and they poach into cultivated crops to graze and browse in nearby fields of rice, lentils, maize, peas and grape.[6][7][1][15][1]


They are hunters' favourite game – as prized game – because of their impressive antlers and hides that are in demand in the local markets. They are widely hunted for food; it is believed that they were hunted to feed the army during many Asian wars. Their population has declined due to intense development activities necessitating reclamation of land for grazing, cultivation and fish farming, in all countries. In Burma, deforestion of the diperocarp forests is cited as a reason for the threat faced by the thamin deer. The habitat available for their protection is very limited; only 1% of the protected forests are suitable for its protection in South Asia. Even in protected areas the animals are poached. Another striking problem is finding adequate funds and political will to protect the species. The species have a fragmented distribution and are therefore at risk from inbreeding and loss of genetic variation.[6]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Rucervus eldii". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. International Union for Conservation of Nature. 2008. http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/4265. Retrieved 10 March 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Pitraa, Fickela, Meijaard, Groves (2004). Evolution and phylogeny of old world deer. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 33: 880–895.
  3. ^ "Cervus eldii (Eld's Brow-Antlered Deer)". ZipCode.com. http://zipcodezoo.com/Animals/C/Cervus_eldii/. Retrieved 2009-04-04. 
  4. ^ Groves (2006). The genus Cervus in eastern Eurasia. European Journal of Wildlife Research 52: 14-22.
  5. ^ Balakrishnan, Monfort, Gaur, Singh and Sorenson (2003). Phylogeography and conservation genetics of Eld's deer (Cervus eldi). Molecular Ecology 12: 1-10.
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Eld's deer (Cervus eldi". ARKieve: Images of Life on Earth. http://www.arkive.org/elds-deer/cervus-eldii/. Retrieved 2009-04-05. 
  7. ^ a b c "Sangai Deer (Cervus eldii eldii)". National Zoological Park, Mathura Road, New Delhi, India. http://nzpnewdelhi.gov.in/sangai-deer.htm. Retrieved 2009-04-05. 
  8. ^ a b c d "Thamin or Brow-antlered Deer Cervus eldi[dead link]". World Deer. http://www.worlddeer.org/thamin.html. Retrieved 2009-04-04. 
  9. ^ a b c Richard Lydekker (1996). The Great and Small Game of India, Burma, and Tibet. Asian Educational Services. pp. 456. ISBN 8120611624, 9788120611627. http://books.google.co.in/books?id=_eQA6LDdpiQC&pg=PA235&lpg=PA235&dq=Burmes+thamin&source=bl&ots=Lm4Hk5__FN&sig=gE57YFP6DhGSiz_K22q78k37be0&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result#PPA238,M1. Retrieved 2009-04-05. 
  10. ^ "Dance, Deer Sangai". Chandamama. 2008-03-20. http://www.chandamama.com/story/stories.php?mId=2&cId=5&sbCId=52&stId=548. Retrieved 2009-04-06. 
  11. ^ a b S. Sangsit (2003). "Dancing Deer of Manipur". News Letter, Wild Life Institute of India, Volume 10, number 3. http://www.wii.gov.in/publications/newsletter/autumn2003/fromthewild.htm. Retrieved 2009-04-05. [dead link]
  12. ^ "'Sangai' threatened by unbridled poaching". the Hindu. 2003-03-30. http://www.hinduonnet.com/2003/03/30/stories/2003033004401000.htm. Retrieved 2009-04-05. 
  13. ^ a b c Christen Wemmer. "The Thamin and a Place Called Chatthin". Smithsonian National Zoological Park. http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Publications/ZooGoer/2000/5/thaminandchatthin.cfm. Retrieved 2009-04-05. 
  14. ^ "Conservation GIS Projects:People and the Forests of Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary in Myanmar". Smithsonian National Zoological Park. http://nationalzoo.si.edu/ConservationAndScience/ConservationGIS/projects/thamin/peopleandforests.cfm. Retrieved 2009-04-05. 
  15. ^ "Cervus eldii M'Clelland,1842". Biology. Encyclopedia of Life. http://www.eol.org/pages/308524?category_id=217. Retrieved 2009-04-04. 

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