Delegates from six Southeast Asian countries gather in Phnom Penh to plan a better future for the globally endangered Eld’s deer

Nature Conservation

(HONG KONG, 29th November 2018) On 27th November, approx. 50 officials, scientists and conservationists from the six Eld’s deer range countries, namely Cambodia, China, India, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand will gather at the Sunway Hotel, Phnom Penh to convene a 3-day workshop on Eld’s deer conservation. The workshop is jointly organized by Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden (a Hong Kong-based NGO) and BirdLife International Cambodia Programme. The workshop aims to share information and lessons learned among Eld’s deer conservation managers and researchers from throughout the species’ native range, and develop effective conservation strategies for the highly threatened species.

Eld’s deer (Rucervus eldii), a deer species once widely distributed across lowland dry forests in tropical Southeast Asia, has been greatly decimated by habitat loss and hunting. These threats have exacerbated in recent years as the once rural countryside had undergone rapid urbanization and agricultural intensification and expansion. Wild populations have been extirpated from Thailand and Vietnam, and most Eld’s deer remaining in China are protected in fenced nature reserves. The remaining populations in Cambodia, Laos and India are also highly threatened and fragmented. Therefore, reinvigorated and collaborative conservation efforts and increased public awareness are urgently needed.

“There is a general lack of focused attention from governments, scientific and conservation sectors on this highly threatened species, which is fast disappearing from many suitable habitats throughout the range countries under our eyes. This workshop is a rare and timely opportunity for key stakeholders to sit in one room and discuss the various issues of Eld's deer conservation, and hopefully come up with tangible solutions to turn the tide.”, said Dr. Bosco Chan from Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden.

The estimated global wild population of Eld’s deer is around 3000. Even though the species is protected by national wildlife protection laws in all range countries as well as by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), forests with surviving Eld’s deer, even inside protected areas, are still prone to illegal activities, and the species’ curious and gentle nature makes it an easy target for hunters. Potential areas for enhanced collaboration include cross-border study and conservation, genetic study, captive deer exchange or translocation, and awareness raising.

“Sharing the same threats as other range countries, the Eld’s deer population in Cambodia is also decreasing rapidly. Therefore, we have to make more effort to address the root causes of the decline; otherwise, this important species will disappear from the region, including Cambodia.” said Mr. Bou Vorsak, Cambodia Programme Manager of BirdLife International.

“Deer are facing a mixed future globally; in parts of Europe and the US they are so numerous, as a result of predator removal, and are causing damage to habitats, that their populations are culled” said Sarah Brook, IUCN Red List Coordinator of the IUCN-SSC Deer Specialist Group (Old World Deer).”However, despite their importance as prey animals, and for subsistence needs of local communities in some areas, in Asia they are among the most endangered and least studied species, suffering from a lack of focused conservation efforts. Consequently, unless the situation changes we are, unfortunately very likely to see the loss of further deer species in Asia. Recovery is possible though and hopefully through concerted and collaborative actions inspired by this workshop we can reverse the decline of Eld’s deer”.

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