Larger Malay mouse-deer

Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Tragulidae
Genus and Species: Tragulus napu
  • Miniature deer-like creature with golden-yellow and brown fur
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Larger Malay mouse-deer

Larger Malay mouse-deer, also called chevrotains, are one of the smallest living hoofed mammals. They are small, nocturnal ungulates found typically in south and southeast Asia.

Physical Description

About the size of a rabbit, these ungulates have very long and thin legs; a rounded body; and a small, triangular head with a small pointed black nose and large eyes. They are an orange-brown color with a white belly, chest and neck.

Unlike many of their relatives, they do not have horns or antlers, but males do have small tusks (elongated canines) in their upper jaw which they use in fighting. When standing on all fours, their hindquarters are taller than their front end.

Size

Larger Malay mouse-deer bodies measure about 29 inches (75 centimeter) long, with their tail adding another 3.5 inches (9 centimeter). Their shoulder height is about 13 inches (34 centimeter).

Native Habitat

Larger Malay mouse-deer live in Thailand, Indochina, Sri Lanka, and the Malayan Peninsula, as well as in Sumatra and Borneo. They always live close to water and prefer to be in the undergrowth of dense forests. They create small trails through the thick brush of the forest as they travel.

Food/Eating Habits

In the wild, larger Malay mouse-deer eat a diet of fallen fruit and berries, aquatic plants, leaves, buds, shrubs and grasses. At the Smithsonian's National Zoo, larger Malay mouse-deer eat browse, alfalfa, kale, sweet potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes and banana peels.

Social Structure

Larger Malay mouse-deer are solitary creatures, except during the breeding season. They have no strict hierarchical structure, but both sexes are territorial. Males mark their small territories with their feces, urine and secretions from the gland under their jaw. When challenged, males may beat the ground quickly with their hooves. When necessary, fights between males include short bouts of biting using their sharp canines.

Reproduction and Development

Male mouse-deer of this species have a large gland on their lower jaw that they rub against females in anticipation of mating. These animals breed year-round with a gestation period of about five months and will breed again within a couple of hours after birth. Because of this, females spend most of their adult life pregnant.

They usually have only one offspring at a time, though twin births occur rarely. The calves are well developed when born and are able to stand and be fully active 30 minutes after birth. They are weaned when they are two to three months old, and are sexually mature at 4.5 months. 

Lifespan

Larger Malay mouse-deer can live up to 16 years in human care.

Habitat loss, forest degradation, hunting and the pet trade remain looming threats for the larger Malay mouse-deer. Many species are considered a food source for people in their native range as well. Their diminutive size has also created a demand for these animals in the pet trade.