Seasonal reproduction of northernmost endangered forest musk deer (Moschus berezovskii) in China and the synchronization with climatic conditions

Wang J., Zheng Q., Xia C., Li Y., Zhou M., Sheng Y., Weladji R.B., Meng X. (2021): Seasonal reproduction of northernmost endangered forest musk deer (Moschus berezovskii) in China and the synchronization with climatic conditions. Czech J. Anim. Sci., 66: 46–54.

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Reproductive rhythms, as a response to environmental seasonality, may maximize the survival possibility of both newborns and parents, which is vital for ex situ conservation and sustainable management in wildlife. Forest musk deer (Moschus berezovskii) is a critically endangered ungulate of China. In order to estimate its reproduction characteristics and performance in northern China, a historical distribution area, the parturition pattern of the northernmost captive forest musk deer in Huailai Musk Deer Farm from 2017 to 2018 was analyzed. We found that the parturition of forest musk deer was highly seasonal with a peak on May 27th, and 75% of parturitions were completed within 22 days from May to June, which could be an adaptation to the seasonality of local food resources. The parturition peak was four weeks before the best hydrothermal conditions when food resources were maximally provided. The time lag between the parturition date and the peak of food availability was affected by climatic conditions during lactation as warmer temperatures in the 4th and 5th week and heavier precipitation in the 4th week of lactation shortened the time lag by five days (P < 0.05). The synchronization between parturition rhythms and seasonality of climatic conditions indicated that the forest musk deer could be farmed in Northeastern Taihang Mountains and northern China, where there is a suitable climate for the musk deer reproduction. Sustainable musk production and musk deer release into the wild where there are suitable climatic conditions has been proved to be practicable, which can benefit the ex situ conservation of endangered forest musk deer and musk resources sustainability.

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