Think this freckly, dinky little deer is cute? Fancy a pet one?

Okay then, but a word of warning. That adorable orphaned calf over there was probably “rescued” by the same hunters who shot its mum for a trophy. Don’t want to risk it? Fine, an adult would be just as sweet, but there’s something I should tell you about them too.

See that one hiding at the back, with the missing hind foot? He was also probably “rescued” by the same people who set the leg snare. If that’s too many “probably”s for you, sorry: there are probably only a few hundred Visayan spotted deer left.

Spot the difference

Oddly enough, we barely gave it the time of day until 1983. It was formerly lumped in with the common sambar deer (Rusa unicolor), despite the obvious peppering of spots found on neither the sambar nor the two other native Philippine deer species. In return, it doesn’t give us the time of day either.

Mostly nocturnal, it forages in small social groups nibbling leaves, buds and grasses, and is the largest land mammal in the Western Visayan Islands. Incidentally, its other monikers are the Philippine spotted deer, Prince Alfred’s deer, or the spotted deer, although the latter might result in people buying the wrong stock photo.

I’m using this on principle, dammit. Image by Charles Gibson.

I found conflicting reports about breeding scuffles – the males have small antlers, after all – but in general, the bucks seem content to roar for the does when they’re ready for love. In captivity, it’s the does who seem more raucous – unless in a herd of relatives, they may turn on one of their number and become aggressive.

“Who, me?”
Image by Tomas. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.)

Hunting excepted, it’s actually quite adaptable to sudden violence.

Fire is its friend…kind of

The Visayan spotted deer will sometimes seek out areas scorched by fire, landslides, or other natural disasters to feast on floral ash, minerals, or juicy new cogon grass shoots. Unfortunately, such resilience doesn’t extend to all types of destruction.

Artistic ones, for instance.

Narrow escape

Even tottering higher and higher into less accessible forest areas, the Visayan spotted deer can’t always escape deforestation, and the awkward terrain can severely reduce or isolate its dating pool. Staggeringly, its former range has been reduced by up to 98%, and with such a drastic change in environment, even the locals feel it – soil erosion, the aforementioned landslides, and drought are frequent visitors. Given that hunting is still rife and hard to police, it’s unlikely that the captive-bred Visayan spotted deer will be released from zoos anytime soon either.

You’d think a species named after a 19th century Duke of Edinburgh would be treated royally. Wait a minute [checks list]…damn, I forgot about the curse of the royal moniker.


Latin: Rusa alfredi

What? Small, dark deer with spots. The males also have modest horns.

Where? The Western Visayan Islands of the Philippines, specifically forests in west Panay and Negros.

How big? 0.8 metres / 2.6 feet at the shoulder, and about 1.3 metres / 4.3 feet long. Females are much smaller than males.

Endangered? Yes, due to severe deforestation and hunting pressures.

Probable motto: I can feast on destruction, but not my own!

They look sweet. Do they need my help at all?

Absolutely yes, due to rapid deforestation and poaching, both of which are difficult to police in certain areas. Awesomely, several zoos around the world have a captive breeding programme for a “world herd of Visayan spotted deer”, but there needs to be somewhere to release them in the end!

The Taralak Foundation in the Philippines looks out for the Visayan spotted deer as well as multiple other species, and Conservation International is also working on conservation at a local level.

Or, if you’re feeling especially flush and specific, you can adopt a Visayan spotted deer through Berlin Zoo.

Just to prove I’m not fibbing:

Brook, S.M. 2016. “Rusa alfrediThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species” 2016: e.T4273A22168782.

Cerf du Prince Alfred“. No date. Zoo de Mulhouse [French].

Heckel, Jens-Ove et al. 2010. “Saving one of the world’s most endangered deer species in the Philippines from the brink of extinction“. Biodiversity Conservation Projects.

Huffman, Brent. 2016. “Rusa alfredi – Visayan spotted deer“.

Key, Nathan. No date. “Rusa alfredi: Visayan spotted deer“. Animal Diversity Web.

Philippine spotted deer“. No date. Newquay Zoo.

Rusa alfredi: Visayan spotted deer“. No date. Edinburgh Zoo.

Visayan spotted deer“. No date. Berlin Zoo.

Visayan spotted deer“. No date. Mulhouse Zoo.

Featured image credit: “Prins-Alfredhert” by KevinVar.