The Large-antlered Muntjac (Muntiacus vuquangensis) is a deer species found in the dense rainforests of the Annamite mountains on the border of Vietnam and Laos. Remarkably, the species was only discovered by science in the late 1990s. Like the Saola—another ungulate endemic to the Annamite mountains—the Large-antlered Muntjac was originally discovered from trophies found in the homes of local people. Few biologists have ever seen the species in the wild.
The Large-antlered Muntjac is threatened across its range by widespread and intensive poaching. Poaching in the Annamites is primarily accomplished by the setting of wire snares—often referred to as “the drift nets of the land.” The magnitude of snaring in the Annamites is difficult to overstate: in some protected areas, thousands of snares litter the landscape, and many forests have been emptied of ground-dwelling mammals and birds.
As a result of this snaring pressure, Large-antlered Muntjac numbers are now critically low and scattered in isolated sub-populations, many of which are small and have poor prospects for survival. The situation is especially dire in Vietnam: since 2000, biologists have only documented the species in four protected areas across the entire country. To save the species it is imperative to develop a long-term conservation action plan that incorporates both in situ and ex situ management.
In 2017, the Large-antlered Muntjac Working Group was formed under the IUCN Deer Specialist Group to help coordinate efforts to save the species. The primary goal of the working group, which is hosted by GWC, is to avert the extinction, and promote the recovery of the Large-antlered Muntjac. To do this, conservation scientists are working on multiple objectives:
Conservation breeding. In partnership with the Saola Working Group, GWC will help establish an ex situ population of Large-antlered Muntjac. An endangered ungulate conservation breeding center is underway in Vietnam. Large-antlered Muntjac from both the south and north of the species distribution will be captured and transferred to the center.
Reduce poaching. Focused anti-poaching efforts will ensure zero snaring in Large-antlered Muntjac priority areas. Priority areas include Pu Mat National Park, Bi Doup Nui Ba Nature Reserve in Vietnam and Nakai-Nam Theun National Biodiversity Conservation Area in Laos. Only by reducing snaring can Large-antlered Muntjac recover in the wild.
Surveys and monitoring. Conservationists will search for additional Large-antlered Muntjac populations in Vietnam and Laos because several areas in both range states have not been surveyed with adequate methods or intensity. The highest priority area is Lang Bang Biosphere Reserve, including the Bi Doup Nui Ba Nature Reserve in southern Vietnam. We will establish population baselines in Large-antlered Muntjac priority areas as the first phase of a rigorous species monitoring program. Such baselines are crucial to evaluate the impact of anti-poaching initiatives.
Large-antlered Muntjac Working Group, Saola Working Group