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  • Author: Xiuxiang Meng x
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Quantified Analyses of Aggression Pattern in a Captive Population of Musk Deer (Moschus Sifanicus)

Alpine musk deer (Moschus sifanicus) are endangered as a result of habitat degradation and loss and centuries of widespread poaching. Consequently, musk deer farming was introduced as a measure to not only protect musk deer but also to provide a means for sustainable musk supply. An increased understanding of the social structure of captive populations is essential for both successful farming and improved welfare of individuals. This study recorded agonistic interactions between captive individuals at Xinglongshan Musk Deer Farm (XMDF), northwest China. The relationship between aggressive interactions and the individual's age and gender and opponent health was analysed. From our observations we found that stable social hierarchies developed within both captive male and gender-mixed musk deer groups. There was no significant correlation found between only age of individual and their status in the social hierarchy, and it was thus concluded, as social rank was not determined singularly by age, that a combination of other factors, such as experience and origin of the individual, better explain rank orders. Three forms of aggressive behaviour were expressed between males, in which threatening (56.38%±7.28%) was significantly more frequent than attacking (17.86%±5.94%) and displacing behaviours (25.78%±3.66%). There was no attacking behaviour observed in interactions initiated by males towards females, however displacing (70.85%±4.15%) was more common than threatening (29.15%±4.15%). Conflict-initiating male deer demonstrated more attacking and threatening behaviour towards male opponents than to female ones, however the differences were statistically insignificant. These results can be implemented into musk deer farming management practices through 1) rotating individuals within an enclosure on a frequent basis; 2) removing males from female enclosures after successful mating and 3) enclosing males in single sex enclosures. Furthermore, in order to improve musk deer farming and captive musk deer welfare, management systems should be kept relatively consistent in order to assist in establishing the stable social hierarchy patterns in captive populations.


The habitat selection by animals depends on different environmental and anthropogenic factors such as the season, climate, and the life cycle stage. Here, we have presented the summer habitat selection strategy of reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) in the unprotected forest area from the northern arctic region of China. In summer 2012, we investigated a total of 72 used and 162 non-used plots in the reindeer habitat to record habitat variables. We found that the reindeer used significantly higher altitude, arbour availability, and vegetation cover area as compared to the non-used habitat variables. Principal component analysis (PCA) showed that six principal components (68.5%) were mainly responsible for the summer habitat selection of reindeer such as the slope position, concealment, anthropogenic dispersion, arbour species, distance from the anthropogenic disturbance area (> 1000 m) and water quality (Wilks’ Lambda = 0.12; P = 0.0001). The local people are largely dependent on forest product resource in these regions, such as bees herding, collecting wild vegetables, hunting, poaching, and grazing. These activities highly influenced the reindeer habitat and its behaviours. This study thus confirmed that reindeers are forced to choose poor habitat in unprotected forest area with high human disturbance or interference. These factors should be considered by the concerned authority or agency to manage reindeer population in the wild.