Saturday, July 23, 2011

Siberian Musk Deer

Moschus moschiferus
Last week the several members of the North Korean women's soccer team failed a doping test. The explanation given was that the steroids were accidentally taken along with traditional medicine made from Musk Deer glands. So in the light of Musk Deer making national news, lets learn a little bit about these strange ungulates!

There are actually around half a dozen species of Musk Deer, but today we'll focus on the Siberian variety, Moschus moschiferus. (Interestingly, it was once believed all Musk Deer were subspecies of the Siberian Musk Deer!) As the name might suggest, these guys live in Siberia, but also in parts of Mongolia, China, and North and South Korea. They can be found in mountainous forests and in the Taiga.

Musk Deer are considered to be more primitive than other deer. For example, males have no antlers. Instead, they have a pair of long canine teeth that grow into tusks. They also have musk glands, three different types to be exact. One is between the toes, one is at the rear, and one is on the stomach near the navel. This musk is used to mark territory, and to stimulate females into ovulating.

The Musk from Siberian Musk Deer is highly desired for medicinal and cosmetic purposes. A kilogram can sell for up to $45,000! Many extractors will kill the deer to remove the glands, but musk can be taken from live animals. Despite protections and export quotas being put into place, poaching continues to be the number one threat to the species.

IUCN Status : Vulnerable
Location : Siberia, east Asia
Size : Shoulder height up to 21in (54cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Artiodactyla
Family : Moschidae -- Genus : Moschus -- Species : M. moschiferus

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