The Inconspicuous Species on Bawean

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If you happen to be on the Bawean island off the coast of Indonesia, you might have come across a magnificent-looking deer. An endemic deer resides on the island and has given the island an identity of its own.

Sadly, this species of deer is reported to be in danger of extinction despite their small, localized habitat. In the 2018 Asian Games, they were made the official mascot to create awareness about their critical situation.

They are cute and magnificent

The Bawean deer have a brown-yellow coat with the ears and mouth being surrounded by lighter-colored hair. They have a cute dark-colored muzzle right above their mouth, making a Bawean deer’s fawn perhaps the cutest looking deer. The Bawean deer’s bushy and long tail distinguishes it from other types of deer. The male Bawean deer have antlers that grow magnificently as they age. A fully grown Bawean deer stands tall at a height of 70 cm.

They are incredibly intuitive

Uniquely, the Bawean deer have developed a means of communication with their kind, vocally and by scent. From using their scent to ward off predators from their territories to shepherding lost deer using a sharp bark-like noise. The female deer will communicate with their fawns with the same vocal cues. The male deer are known to stomp their feet and bark to challenge other rival males during the mating season.

They like the peacefulness

The Bawean deer make their home in the woodlands of primary and secondary forests. They seek shelter in the woods from the weather and any predators. These deer enjoy solitary lives and only herd together during mating season or while migrating to a new location. During this travel, the males are known to shepherd the females, and fawns that are birthed once a year between February to June.

Bawean deer are not used to the presence of humans, and upon any interaction, they will trot away.

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Family comes first

Amazingly, the whole herd comes together to protect the infant. The males get aggressive and are known to spray other males or predators that approach their small families with their glandular secretion. When fleeing from predators the male deer runs in front of the fawn while the female will follow at the back as means to guard the infants against predators.

Their numbers are dwindling

According to the IUCN Red List, the Bawean deer is a critically endangered species with only 200-500 individuals still in the wild. 2 factors contributed to this situation. Firstly, the deers were overhunted 500 years ago when human settlements first appeared on the Bawean island. Secondly, the deer’s habitat was further disrupted when it was replaced by teak plantations in the 60s. Thankfully, people have better awareness now and regulations have been in place to prevent further habitat disruption. We hope it is not too late to save this magnificent species.

Written by Hamzah Rajput (INTI International University)