Endangered Species: Chinese Water Deer (Hydropotes inermis)

Endangered species are a go-to metric when it comes to conservation, but that's not always the best course of action when it comes to protecting the most biodiversity. Some species are more likely to gain traction as a species to preserve than others, whether it's due to aesthetics, rarity, or cultural familiarity. I hope to explore that more at some later date, but endangered species are still worth discussing.

Back in 2013, I took a course in applied ecology and conservation studies. One assignment was to make a poster about an endangered species. I chose the Chinese Water Deer (pictured right, available for download here).

Chinese water deer (Hydropotes inermis) are also known as Korean water deer due to their distribution. They recently made an appearance my Tumblr dashboard in a scientific illustration post. I quickly added what I knew to the post, namely why they are considered to be Threatened by the IUCN (status 'Vulnerable' to be precise).

Chinese water deer are poached for traditional medicine purposes, but not for the reason you may suspect. In addition to adults for their meat, newborn deer are also hunted. See, the poacher (who is doing this because a market niche demands it, don’t use up all your anger with them) waits until a foal has drank some of it’s mother’s milk. Then the poacher will kill the newborn deer and remove it’s rumen (part of the deer's digestive system) for the undigested milk. It’s said to help indigestion in humans. This is especially sad because 40% of newborn deer die within four weeks, so the remaining deer are important to keep populations steady. 

Additionally, these deer may have a secret sanctuary in the Korean DMZ. It’s difficult to get accurate wildlife numbers out of North Korea, but the DMZ has become a sort of wildlife sanctuary, but only for animals that are too light to set off the remaining land mines. This is both positive and negative - positive in that there is some protection for the species, but negative due to the genetic isolation of populations within the DMZ and the increased temptation for individuals to enter the DMZ to access these populations despite obvious risks. You can find out more about wildlife in the DMZ in an essay Jane Lee alongside stunning photos by Jongwoo Park here.

My academic references for the poster as well as this post are as follows:
British Deer Society. 2013. “Chinese Water Deer.” Last accessed June 1, 2013
Harris, R.B., and J.W. Duckworth. 2008. Hydropotes inermis. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. Last accessed June 1, 2013 .
Hu, J., Fang, S. G. and Wan, Q. H. 2006. Genetic Diversity of Chinese Water Deer (Hydropotes inermis inermis): Implications for Conservation. Biochemical Genetics 44: 161-172.
Kim, B.J., Oh, D.H., Chun, S.H., and S.D Lee. 2013. Distribution, density, and habitat use of the Korean water deer (Hydropotes inermis argyropus) in Korea. Land Ecol Eng 7(2): 291–297.
Liu, M.L., Li, M.Y., and X.J. Wang. 2012. Impact of rapid transportation network on the potential habitat of Hydropotes inermis in suburban areas. Zhejiang Nonglin Daxue Xuebao 29(6): 897–903.


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