The deer of Sri Lanka


The deer of Sri Lanka – Mouse deer (Trangulus meminna)

One of the alternative names for the Mouse deer is known as chevrotain and it is commonly known as meeminna by Sinhalese language. This Sinhalese name has contributed for its scientific nomenclature. The mouse deer is a small animal which grows maximum thirty centimeters in height. Larger animal of this genus is found in several South-East Asian countries, but still they are comparatively smaller than the average deer. This is a species of deer without antler; greatly elongated caning teeth are substituting the antler. Caning teeth are used for defense and fighting and they are called ‘tusks’. Tusks of males are larger in size than the tusks of females, and protrude below the upper lip. Since the smaller size of its body cause them to be killed often by village dogs and house cats.

Mouse deer is to be found in low down of the food chain and their best defense is concealment. Mouse deer has pattern of beige stripes on his coats. They have spots in the areas of darker buff background, which helps them to camouflage. Mouse deer is an animal seen very rarely in the jungle owing to its secretive living style. They remain hidden in the jungle for most of the time. Mouse deer is an animal with wide distribution in the island covering all the major climate zones (dry zone and wet zone). Sometimes they can be seen in the suburbs such as Colombo. But owing to their secretive habits prevent them being noticed.

Sambhur (Cervus unicolor)

Larger body size of Sambhur makes them the third largest mammal in the island after Elephant and buffalo. Several sub-species of Sambhur are occurred in throughout the Asian range, from India to Philippines. The body size of Sambhur largely varied across the different countries.  Sri Lankan Sambhur is being considered being comparatively larger than other specimens. Today the distribution of Sambhur is limited to some parts of the country, even though once they had a wide distribution in the island.

Sambhur are restricted to wet zone mountain forests today and it is difficult to see them outside the dry zone protected areas. Illegal hunting and habitat loose being considered the main challenge for the survival of sambhur. Only the stags carry antlers, which grows in the second year of life and the antler is renewed every year. Horton plains in the central province considered being one of the best places to witness this animal. Wilpattu, Yala, Kumana and Knuckles range also considered to have considerable number of Sambhur. Only natural enemy of Sambhur is the leopard, and they have become an important prey for leopards   especially in the mountainous areas.