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  Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless otherwise credited.
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Red Muntjac

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3

Fig 4


Family : Cervidae
Species : Muntiacus muntjak

Head-Body Length : Males up to 1.1 metres
Tail Length : Males up to 19 cm 
Weight : Males up to 28 kg
Females are somewhat smaller.

The Red, or Indian Muntjac, is the most widespread species of 'barking deer'. It inhabits a wide variety of forest types including primary and secondary rainforest, dry forest, hill forest and montane habitats (reportedly up to 3000 metres elevation), sometimes venturing into adjacent grassland to graze.

Its typical diet includes young leaves, shoots, tree bark, grass and fallen fruits. Small ground-dwelling vertebrates may also be consumed.

The species is generally nocturnal, however in protected areas, where they are not persecuted, these deer may be active by day and can become relatively tame.

Twelve species of 'barking deer' are currently recognised, of which 11 occur in Southeast Asia, particularly in the north of the region. They are called 'barking deer' due to the alarm call they make when a predator or other threat is nearby - the call sounds like the piercing bark of a small dog.

Muntjacs are small in stature, but the Red Muntjac is one of the larger species, weighing up to 28 kg, and with a shoulder height of up to 55 cm. Its fur colour varies from pale orange to reddish brown, paler underneath, and with a pale throat. Juveniles sometimes have white spots. The tail measures up to 19 cm, the underside of which is white.

The species has complex and attractive facial markings with dark eyebrows and long dark eyelashes. There is a pre-orbital gland below each eye : secretions from this gland are used for chemical communication, and males use the secretions to mark their territory.

Males have small antlers of up to 13 cm, arising from bony pedicels of up to 15 cm. Despite the small antlers, males will fiercely protect their harem and their territory from other males. They also possess enlarged upper canine teeth which can inflict damage on a rival.
Muntjacs form a key part of the prey base for large predators in many parts of Southeast Asia. They may be preyed upon by large cats such as Tigers and Leopards, large pythons, wild dogs and crocodiles.

The Red Muntjac occurs naturally in India, Sri Lanka, China and Taiwan and other locales. In Southeast Asia it ranges from Burma, Thailand and Indochina (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia) through Peninsular Malaysia to Borneo and the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java.

Figs 1 and 2 : Female grazing by day in a grassland area of Khao Yai National Park, Thailand.  Note the large, pre-orbital gland below each eye.

Fig 3 : Female browsing on low vegetation at the edge of lowland forest in Peninsular Malaysia.

Fig 4 : Male with antlers examining a shallow pool in lowland freshwater swamp forest, Peninsular Malaysia.

References : M5