Sambar Deer (Rusa unicolor)

Interesting :

Sambar deer is a large deer. Its coat is coarse and dark-brown in color. The coat around its neck is longer and denser than any other area. Newborn sambar deer does not have white spots on its body unlike newborn spotted deer and hog deer. Its tail is relatively short. Only male sambar deer has horn. There are 3 tines in each side of horn. However, there is only one tine in the first horn. Once the first horn is shed, the second horn will have 2 tines. And once the second horn is shed. the third horn will have 3 tines and newborn horn afterward will have only 3 tines, not more than this.The horn is shed every year during March or April. However, its horn becomes old in November. It has a big pool of tears at the head of eyelid, which is obviously poked. Especially during breeding season, this pool of tears will become bigger and will generate strong smell pheromone, which is useful for inhalation of others. It has a quick sense of ears, eyes, and nose.

Habitat :

No large Indian ungulate has adapted itself to a wider variety of forest types and environmental conditions than has Sambar (Schaller 1967). Within India, Sambar occurs in the thorn and arid forests of Gujarat and Rajasthan, in the moist and dry deciduous forests throughout peninsular India, in the pine and oak forests at the Himalayan foothills, and in the evergreen and semi-evergreen forests of northeastern India and the Western Ghats (Sankar and Acharya 2004, N.S. Kumar pers. comm. 2008). Outside India it extends into temperate-latitude and alpine-zone woodlands of Taiwan (Lin, C.-Y. and Lee, L.-L. pers. comm. 2008). This habitat flexibility is permitted by its broad diet: Sambar has been documented to eat 130–180 species of plants in India alone (Schaller 1967, Johnsingh and Sankar 1991, N.S. Kumar pers. comm. 2008), with food requirements less specialised than those of other deer (Schaller 1967). Sambar grazes or browses depending upon the forage available at that time (Schaller 1967, Richardson 1972, Martin 1977, Bentley 1978, Dinerstein 1979, Kelton and Skipworth 1987, Ngampongsai 1987, Sankar 1994, Semiadi et al. 1995). Across the very wide altitudinal range occupied in Taiwan, the diet varies reflecting major changes in plant communities (Lin, C.-Y. and Lee, L.-L. pers. comm. 2008). Sambar was found to live in much higher densities in moist than in dry deciduous forests of Nagarahole National Park (Karanth and Sunquist 1992) and there are no doubt also patterns of habitat selection across the rest of its range. Although the highest densities of Sambar so far recorded were in the semi-arid forests of Ranthambore (Kumar 2000), across most of its Indian range Sambar seems to thrive best in well-watered, moist deciduous hilly terrain (N.S. Kumar pers. comm. 2008). The Sambar occurs up to at least 3,825 m on Siouguluan Mountain, the highest peak of the Central Mountains in Taiwan; elsewhere on the island it ranges down to 150 m asl, mostly living at 2,000–3,500 m (Lin, C.-Y. and Lee, L.-L. pers. comm. 2008). It occurs up to 3,000 m on Gunung Kinabalu, Sabah, Borneo (Payne et al. 1985). In Myanmar, recent camera-trap photographs spanned the range of 0–2,150 m asl (Saw Htun pers. comm. 2008). Sambar is largely restricted to hilly terrain in the Terai Arc Landscape (Johnsingh et al. 2004), although how much this reflects real habitat selection and how much it is an artificial pattern produced by human effects (habitat conversion and hunting) is unclear. More widely in India, there does seem to be a marked preference for undulating terrain (N.S. Kumar pers. comm. 2008). Kushwaha et al. (2004) found that in Kumaon Himalaya (India), Sambar usage was greater of the higher than the lower altitude area. However, it makes wide use of plains areas elsewhere, where these have not been destroyed, e.g. the Hukaung Valley in Myanmar (J.W. Duckworth pers. comm. 2008).In Borneo, while Payne et al. (1985) considered Sambar “most common in secondary forests of gently-sloping terrain” they also knew of occurrence in “tall dipterocarp forests on steep terrain and in swamp forests”. In Thung Yai, Thailand, Sambar signs were twice as abundant in lowland forest as in montane forest, although this difference was not statistically significant (Steinmetz et al. 2008). Across seven sites in Thailand, places where sambar was detected had shallower slopes, more open habitat, were closer to streams, closer to roads and villages, and had lower rainfall (Lynam et al. 2012).In Southeast Asian regions of dense evergreen closed-canopy forest, Sambar is highly tolerant of forest degradation: indeed, much higher numbers are found in encroached stands than in pristine forests, if hunting is under control (Rijksen 1978, Heydon 1994, Stuebing 1995, Davies et al. 2001). In Sabah, Sambar was camera-trapped in both mature and young forest stands (Matsubayashi and Sukor 2005). All the remaining Lao populations are centred around areas with extensive open, or at least broken, habitat amid forest (Duckworth et al. 1999), and the general paucity of records from the interiors of large blocks of closed-canopy evergreen and semi-evergreen forests, which generally support the least depleted large mammal populations, probably reflects natural patterns of habitat occupation (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008). Similarly, in extensive tracts of deciduous dipterocarp forest the species occurs primarily around patches of denser habitats, and this seems to be a natural rather than hunting-led pattern (Timmins and Ou 2001). In this sense, in Indochina Northern Red Muntjac Muntiacus vaginalis is much more tolerant and versatile than is Sambar. In southern and central India where much of the forest is deciduous, Sambar is a true forest ungulate and conspicuously avoids disturbed and open forests, and is highly sensitive to any sort of forest resource extractive activities (N.S. Kumar pers. comm. 2008). Kushwaha et al. (2004) found that in Kumaon Himalaya (India), Sambar was primarily in areas of high tree and herb density with low shrub density. O'Brien et al. (2003) found no statistically significant difference in Sambar abundance between areas within 1 km inside the boundary of Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, Sumatra, and those deep in the interior of the park. Caution is needed in inferring that there is truly no association of Sumatran Sambar with forest edges (which would be astonishing by comparison with its habitat use elsewhere) because the study does not specify whether this ‘non-significant’ result might simply reflect methodological factors rather than a genuine lack of biological effect (see, e.g., Johnson 1999). Despite the population rises that occur in post-logging forest, there is no evidence that Sambar can survive landscape-level conversion to exotic plantations or other non-forest land-uses, although many live in coconut plantations (G. Semiadi pers. comm. 2008) and it is relatively common in immature Acacia mangium plantations within the matrix of plantation and natural forest of the Sarawak Planted Forests area, Bintulu (B. Giman pers. comm. 2008). Camera trapping in oil palm plantations adjacent to Danum Valley in Sabah suggest that the species does not utilize plantations (Yue and J. Brodie unpublished data).A study of coffee estates around Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary, India, recorded Sambar only in those coffee areas within 1 km of the sanctuary’s boundary (Bali et al. 2007). In forest protected areas of Thailand such as Khao Yai National Park and Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Sambar populations are often concentrated around anthropogenic grass and scrub (e.g. sites of former villages) rather than in the forest itself (Trisurat et al. 1996; Lynam et al. 2001) and this also seems to be true on remote parts of the Bolaven Plateau of south Lao PDR (Evans et al. 2000). In the Annamite mountains of Lao PDR and Viet Nam, Sambar seems often to be associated with degraded valley bottom areas, largely the result of long human influence: although the effects of a permanent water source and differences in terrain in determining distribution are difficult to disentangle (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2008). Sambar regularly visits salt licks (e.g. Matsubayashi et al. 2007), perhaps especially when growing new antlers. This predictability exposes it to high levels of hunting, where this is not effectively controlled. It seems that within an area, not all sort of licks are visited. At the Seima Biodivesity Conservation Area, Cambodia, Sambar photographs were initially very few at mineral lick camera-traps. But in 2007, cameras placed on trails and at some permanent water sources (especially in semi-evergreen forest) recorded Sambar much more often. Checking tracks at more than 40 licks indicated that some were used by Sambar and Red Muntjac, but not Gaur Bos gaurus or Asian Elephant Elephas maximus, while the big ones with many cattle and elephant prints had few Sambar prints (E. Pollard pers. comm. 2008). Sambar was considered to be mostly nocturnal by Kawanishi and Sunquist (2004), to show ‘no pattern’ (meaning unclear; perhaps intended to imply no significant variation through the 24-hour cycle, although this is itself a pattern) by O’Brien et al. (2003), and to be cathemeral by van Schaik and Griffiths (1996). In fact, its activity pattern may vary across sites, but in general it is mostly crepuscular, with significant nocturnal activity as well (Schaller 1967; J.W. Duckworth pers. comm. 2008). Sambar is essentially non-social, stable groups being at most family associations (Schaller 1967; Karanth and Sunquist 1992). However, it is often in groups, presumably temporary, of 12–30 in dry deciduous and semi-arid forests of India (e.g. Bandipur, Pench, Melghat and Ranthambore) (N.S. Kumar pers. comm. 2008), and the same is true around the secondary grasslands within Khao Yai National Park, Thailand (J.W. Duckworth pers. comm. 2008). During peak summer, such associations of up to 80–100 near large waterbodies are not uncommon in Pench in central India (N.S. Kumar pers. comm. 2008). A detailed review of information on grouping in Sambar is in Sankar and Acharya (2004). Results from many areas show a strong bias in sex ratio to females, perhaps reflecting selective predation; alternatively, stags may be more vulnerable to stress (Sankar and Acharya 2004). Breeding is rather seasonal in most areas where studied, for example Schaller (1967) reported that in Kanha the rut spreads over a period of at least seven months with a peak in November–December. Stags during the rut sometimes can cover large distances, up to 10–20 km in one night. Further information for India is reviewed in Sankar and Acharya (2004). The bucks of Formosan Sambar have a seasonal antler cycle, and the mating season is from June to January with a peak in September–October. Males wallow and mark with scent glands in this season. Fawns are born (usually singly) from March to August, with a peak in May and June (Lin, C.-Y. and Lee, L.-L. pers. comm. 2008). Predation appears to be the major cause of Sambar mortality. In Bandipur, Sambar is one of the most important prey in terms of the biomass taken by Tiger Panthera tigris (31%), Leopard P. pardus (8%) and Dhole C. alpinus (13%) (Andheria et al. 2007). In Bandipur Sambar remains were found in about 22.3% of Tiger faeces, 6.1% of Leopard faeces and 7.3% of Dhole faeces (Andheria et al. 2007). In adjoining Nagarahole, proportion of Sambar in Tiger’s diet was about 25–29%, derived from faeces and kill data respectively (Karanth and Sunquist 1995). In Tadoba-Andhari, Sambar together with Gaur contributed to nearly 70% of the prey biomass consumed by Tiger, whereas in Pench-Maharashtra it was 80% (Karanth and Kumar 2005). Sambar occurred in 50% of Tiger scats in Pench-Maharashtra (Karanth and Kumar 2005). In well protected forest reserves where different body-sized ungulates are abundantly available, Sambar together with Gaur are selectively predated by Tiger.

Food :

It eats leafs, and prefers treetops to grasses. Natural foods of deer are, for example, young vines, treetops of shrubs, young grasses and leafs, bamboo leafs, and especially salt lick.

Behavior :

It normally likes to stay solitary except in breeding season. It normally makes a living since twilight until early morning. During daytime, it resides around dense vegetation. It likes to stay in forests as well as thick forests. It is generally found in cleanrings and areas adjacent to water. It likes to stay in muddy places like cows to prevent from insects.

Current Status :

The Sambar is found in many protected areas throughout its range, although in most of these areas this legal status has not stemmed declines and local extinctions from hunting. Similarly, although it is protected from hunting by legislation, even outside protected areas, in most or all range states, these laws are challenging to enforce, given the trade demand for meat and antlers (GMA Indonesia Workshop). In Sarawak, Borneo, unfortunately, Sambar is not on the protected list of Sarawak Wildlife Protection Ordinance, 1998 (a,b) (B. Giman pers. comm. 2014). Currently the law has a strong protective effect in Taiwan (Lin, C.-Y. and Lee, L.-L. pers. comm. 2008) and in various protected areas of India (N.S. Kumar pers. comm. 2008). In Southeast Asia, Sambar declines have lagged behind those of other sympatric deer (excepting muntjacs). There is no doubt that within a decade or two Sambar will be, like Hog Deer and Eld’s Deer are already, almost absent from South-east Asia unless effective protection from trade-driven hunting is instituted. In India the species’s status is less grim, and this is dependent upon continuation of the current protected areas system, and the expansion of effective threat reduction into a greater proportion of protected areas: in many Indian protected areas, poaching is rampant and in such vulnerable areas Sambar numbers are still declining. Given the major challenges combating hunting of such a desired animal, long-term survival is most realistic in large protected areas (exceeding 1,000 km2 where possible), lacking people living within them, with an adequate number of motivated and capable staff (Anak Patannavibool pers. comm. 2008, A.J. Lynam pers. comm. 2008). The precise ways for protected areas to function effectively in the conservation of large mammals depend upon their own specific circumstances, but field presence of staff, dispersed across the area, is likely to be important in almost every area. For example, Lynam et al. (2006) found in Khao Yai National Park, Thailand, that encounter rates of tracks and signs of Sambar (and other large mammals) decreased with distance from ranger substations. Deep inside the forest to the south and east, far away from ranger substations, Sambar was locally extinct. Similar patterns are shown by current Sambar distributions in other Thai protected areas such as Khao Sok, Phu Khieo and Kaeng Krachan (A.J. Lynam pers. comm. 2008). In some protected areas (recent examples being Bhadra and Kudremukh in Karnataka), formerly forest-dwelling human communities have resettled closer to markets, clinics, school and other services (Karanth and Karanth 2007). This expands habitat available to Sambar (that which was formerly fields and houses) but more significant is the removal of a source of hunters and the cessation of grazing competition with domestic stock (see Karanth et al. 2006). Such conservation interventions have helped recovery of Sambar populations in this region. Increasing development aspirations mean that outmigration is likely from further areas, e.g. Mudumalai. Most of the remaining forest within its Chinese range are already established as nature reserves (M.W.N. Lau pers. comm. 2008). As the majority of the Sambar population is in South Asia, conservation activities are important there. It is also important that populations are maintained at least in several areas in Southeast Asia, to maintain Sambar presence through its historical range, to preserve Sambar genetic diversity and through its importance to the ecosystems within which it lives. Given the regional pattern of threats and current successes to date, implementing effective conservation interventions is considerably more challenging, and therefore a higher priority in the Southeast Asian region. The most important conservation measure for Sambar in Cambodia is the continued strengthening and support of conservation efforts in Seima Protected Forest, Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary and Mondulkiri Protected Forest and to a lesser extent support of protected area conservation management in the northern plains and central Cardamoms. Likewise in Viet Nam, the most important conservation measure is the continued support of protection efforts within Cat Tien National Park, and in Thailand it is to to expand government-funded park protection and ranger training programmes outside of the few parks which are currently well supported in the Western Forest Complex. In Myanmar the Hukaung Valley is an exceptional area of lowland plains forest, grassland, and wetlands. Through its size and mostly little-encroached condition, this is the most outstanding remaining landscape-level floodplains habitat for very large mammals remaining in tropical Asia, and although wildlife populations are highly depleted, warrants the strongest effort to conserve it. It faces a number of daunting challenges (J.W. Duckworth pers. comm. 2008). In Lao PDR, any of a large number of areas could become key Sambar conservation sites, but there is as yet no precedent in the country for effective conservation of high-trade-value large mammals. Xe Pian, Nam Et–Phou Louey, and Nakai–Nam Theun NPAs could all be highly significant areas for the species, but so could almost any other NPA; the reality is that the most success with Sambar conservation is likely to come through identifying areas with positive underlying situations to achieve conservation, rather than identifying the area with the most intrinsic importance for Sambar as the focus for efforts. Captive breeding is being developed in East Kalimantan (G. Semiadi pers. comm. 2008). A captive herd of 223 heads in 10 ha enclosure was established in 1998 in Penajam District, as a pilot project. Several private herds exist in the province, such as at Bearau and at Nunukan, both with more than 20 heads (G. Semiadi pers. comm. 2008). Captive Sambar herds are also widespread in mainland Asia.


CLASS : Mammalia

ORDER : Cetartiodactyla

FAMILY : Cervidae

GENUS : Rusa

SPECIES : Sambar Deer (Rusa unicolor)

Conservation status : Vulnerable

Age :

It can live up to 15 - 20 years.

Reproductive :

Breeding season is around November - January.

Size and weight :

Sambar deer is a large deer.

Reference :

For more information

Point of view :

Update : 11 April 2017