Mousedeer



Mousedeer form the Tragulidae family of small, even-toed ungulates in the mammalia order Artiodactyla.1 Other artiodactyl families include deer, pigs and cattle. Two mousedeer species exist in Singapore: the lesser mousedeer (Tragulus kanchil) and the greater mousedeer (Tragulus napu). They have been recorded in the Central Catchment Area, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Pulau Ubin.2 The mousedeer is well-known in Malay stories as the wily sang kancil that always manages to outwit large predators like the crocodile and the tiger.3

Description
Although the mousedeer in Southeast Asia resemble deer, they are distinguishable from the latter by their small size, thin legs, and a triangular white pattern extending from the chin and running down the throat.4 Their coat ranges in colour from grey to reddish-brown. Males have a pair of enlarged canines that extend down from their upper jaw.5

The head-to-body length of an adult greater mousedeer is about 50 to 60 cm, while that of an adult lesser mousedeer is around 40 to 50 cm.6 The distinguishing feature between the two species lies in the white stripes on either side of the triangular pattern running down their chin and throat. The white stripes are continuous in the lesser mousedeer, but appear broken and/or uneven in the greater mousedeer.7

Reproduction
The greater mousedeer has a gestation period of five to six months, and the young will reach full adult size at around five months old. The lesser mousedeer usually gives birth to one fawn, which is weaned at about three months old.8

Diet
Mousedeer are frugivorous. They feed on low vegetation as well as fallen fruits, shoots, young leaves and fungi foraged from the ground.9

Habitat
The mousedeer inhabit both primary and mature secondary rainforests.10 Other than Singapore, both species can be found in Indochina, Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo. The lesser mousedeer is also found in southern China.11


In Singapore, the lesser mousedeer has always been a known inhabitant of the Central Catchment Area.12 The greater mousedeer, on the other hand, was thought to have vanished from Singapore.13 In 1999, eight greater mousedeer bred at the zoo were released into the Bukit Timah nature reserve and the MacRitchie Reservoir area.14 In 2009, the National Parks Board confirmed an official sighting of the greater mousedeer at Pulau Ubin. Prior to that, there had also been sightings of both the lesser and greater mousedeer at Lower Peirce Reservoir since 2007.15

Hunting

The mousedeer is traditionally hunted for its meat, which is said to be more tender than venison. The meat is also made into dendeng (spiced, dried meat).16

On 27 June 1947, the Wild Animals and Birds Protection Order, 1947, was gazetted, which put an end to the hunting of mousedeer and several other wildlife species in Singapore.17

Literary and cultural references
Mousedeer stories have been told and passed down as folklore for generations as well as published folklorists and children’s authors. Sang kancil stories, as they are popularly known, portray the craftiness and intelligence of the mousedeer. Common targets of the wily mousedeer’s tricks are the tiger and crocodile.18


One of the earliest published anthologies of sang kancil stories in the collection of the National Library, Singapore, is Hikayat Pelandok, edited by Ormonde Theodore Dussek and published in 1915.19 Between 1951 and 1963, Kathleen Hickley wrote a series of modern stories about Mat Mousedeer for children in The Straits Times newspaper.20 Instead of the forest, Mat Mousedeer lived in a kampong (“village”) and did things like publishing magazines with his friends.21

On occasion, Singapore has been likened to the sang kancil. For example, Yang Razali Kassim was alluding to Singapore in his article published in The Business Times on 26 February 2003: “To survive, the tiny kancil makes up for its small size with nimbleness and cunning to outwit the bigger creatures in the jungle”.22

There are two mousedeer on Malacca’s coat-of-arms, a reference to the story on the founding of Malacca in the Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals). As the story goes, a white mousedeer kicked Sultan Iskandar Shah’s hunting dog, which prompted the sultan to exclaim, “This is a good place, when even its mousedeer are full of fight! We shall do well to make a city here”.23 In 1990, Singapore’s then Minister for Trade and Industry Lee Hsien Loong made a reference to this tale when he said, “… if ever we are chased by a hound bigger than ourselves... then we must, like the mousedeer, be prepared to turn around and give it a kick”.24

Variant names
Scientific names: Tragulus (genus); Tragulus napu (greater mousedeer); Tragulus kanchil (lesser mousedeer).25

English names: Mousedeer; Asiatic mouse deer; chevrotain.26
Malay names: Kancil;27 pelanduk;28 Napuh  (or kancil besar),29 which refers specifically to the greater mousedeer.30
Chinese names: Xilu; shulu (direct translation of mousedeer).31



Author

Timothy Pwee



References
1. Burkill, I. H. (1935). A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula (Vol. 1). London: Crown Agents for the Colonies, p. 774. (Call no.: RCLOS 634.909595 BUR-[RFL])
2. Ang, Y. (2009, March 26). Greater mouse deer sighted in Ubin. The Straits Times, p. 33. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Yang Razali Kassim. (2003, February 26). Can the tiger and sang kancil ever make up? The Business Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Wright, A. (1989). Twentieth century impressions of British Malaya: Its history, people, commerce, industries, and resources. Singapore: G. Brash, p. 139. (Call no.: RSING 959.5 TWE)
4. Cranbrook, G. G-H.G. (1983). The wild mammals of Malaya (Peninsular Malaysia) and Singapore. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, pp. 106—107. (Call no.: RSING 599.09595 MED)
5. Baker, N., & Lim, K. K. P. (2008). Wild animals of Singapore: A photographic guide to mammals, reptiles, amphibians and freshwater fishes. Singapore: Draco Pub. and Distribution: Nature Society (Singapore), pp. 155, 170. (Call no.: RSING 591.95957 WIL)
6. Ang, Y. (2009, March 26). Greater mouse deer sighted in Ubin. The Straits Times, p. 33; Nathan, D. (1999, April 6). Mousedeer to be released into reserves. The Straits Times, p. 41. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Baker, N., & Lim, K. K. P. (2008). Wild animals of Singapore: A photographic guide to mammals, reptiles, amphibians and freshwater fishes. Singapore: Draco Pub. and Distribution: Nature Society (Singapore), pp. 155, 170. (Call no.: RSING 591.95957 WIL)
8. Cranbrook, G. G-H.G. (1983). The wild mammals of Malaya (Peninsular Malaysia) and Singapore. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, pp. 106–107. (Call no.: RSING 599.09595 MED)
9. Baker, N., & Lim, K. K. P. (2008). Wild animals of Singapore: A photographic guide to mammals, reptiles, amphibians and freshwater fishes. Singapore: Draco Pub. and Distribution: Nature Society (Singapore), pp. 155, 170. (Call no.: RSING 591.95957 WIL)
10. Baker, N., & Lim, K. K. P. (2008). Wild animals of Singapore: A photographic guide to mammals, reptiles, amphibians and freshwater fishes. Singapore: Draco Pub. and Distribution: Nature Society (Singapore), pp. 155, 170. (Call no.: RSING 591.95957 WIL)
11. Wilson, D. E., & Reeder, D. M. (Eds.). (2005). Mammal species of the world: A taxonomic and geographic reference. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, pp. 649–650. (Call no.: R 599.012 MAM)
12. Baker, N., & Lim, K. K. P. (2008). Wild animals of Singapore: A photographic guide to mammals, reptiles, amphibians and freshwater fishes. Singapore: Draco Pub. and Distribution: Nature Society (Singapore), pp. 155, 170. (Call no.: RSING 591.95957 WIL)
13. Ang, Y. (2009, March 26). Greater mouse deer sighted in Ubin. The Straits Times, p. 33. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Nathan, D. (1999, April 6). Mousedeer to be released into reserves. The Straits Times, p. 41. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Ang, Y. (2009, March 26). Greater mouse deer sighted in Ubin. The Straits Times, p. 33. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Burkill, I. H. (1935). A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula (Vol. 1). London: Crown Agents for the Colonies, p. 774. (Call no.: RCLOS 634.909595 BUR-[RFL])
17. Singapore. Colony of Singapore government gazette supplement. (1947, June 27). Wild Animals and Birds Protection Order (S 205/1947) [Microfilm no.: NL 2954]. Singapore: [s.n.], p. 427.
18. Yang Razali Kassim. (2003, February 26). Can the tiger and sang kancil ever make up? The Business Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Dussek, O. T. (1915). Hikayat pelandok: Ia-itu hikayat sang kanchil, cherita pelandok dengan anak memerang, hikayat pelandok jenaka [Microfilm no.: NL 8451). Singapore: Methodist Pub. House.
20. Meet Mat Mousedeer. (1951, August 29). The Straits Times, p. 9; The Jungle Post is a sell out after that grand fete. (1963, January 23). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Hickley, K. (1962, August 8). Mat gets down to a rough make-up. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Yang Razali Kassim. (2003, February 26). Can the tiger and sang kancil ever make up? The Business Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Brown, C. C. (1952, October). The Malay annals. Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 25(2/3) (159), 5–276, p. 52. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.5 JMBRAS)
24. The nimble mousedeer and the fighting spirit. (1990, August 15). The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Wilson, D. E., & Reeder, D. M. (Eds.). (2005). Mammal species of the world: A taxonomic and geographic reference. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, pp. 649–650. (Call no.: R 599.012 MAM)
26. Cranbrook, G. G-H.G. (1983). The wild mammals of Malaya (Peninsular Malaysia) and Singapore. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, pp. 106—107. (Call no.: RSING 599.09595 MED)
27. Burkill, I. H. (1935). A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula (Vol. 1). London: Crown Agents for the Colonies, p. 774. (Call no.: RCLOS 634.909595 BUR-[RFL]); Kancil. (1995). In Kamus besar bahasa Melayu utusan. Cheras, Kuala Lumpur: Utusan Publications, p. 791. (Call no.: Malay RSING 499.2303 KAM)
28. Cranbrook, G. G-H.G. (1983). The wild mammals of Malaya (Peninsular Malaysia) and Singapore. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. 106. (Call no.: RSING 599.09595 MED)
29. Napuh. (1995). In Kamus besar bahasa Melayu utusan. Kuala Lumpur: Utusan Publications, p. 1203. (Call no.: Malay RSING 499.2303 KAM)
30. Cranbrook, G. G-H.G. (1983). The wild mammals of Malaya (Peninsular Malaysia) and Singapore. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, pp. 106. (Call no.: RSING 599.09595 MED)
31. 吴光华. (主编) [Wu, G. H.]. (Ed). (1993). 《汉英大辞典》[Chinese-English dictionary] (Vol. 2). 上海: 上海交通大学出版社, p. 2726. (Call no.: Chinese R 495.1321 CHI)



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Chevrotains--Singapore
Nature>>Animals
Wildlife
Science and technology>>Zoology>>Mammals