Cervus alfredi Sclater, 1870
The Visayan spotted deer (Rusa alfredi), also known as the Philippine spotted deer or Prince Alfred's deer, is a nocturnal and endangered species of deer located primarily in the rainforests of the Visayan islands of Panay and Negros though it once roamed other islands such as Cebu, Guimaras, Leyte, Masbate, and Samar. It is one of three endemic deer species in the Philippines, although it was not recognized as a separate species until 1983. An estimated 2,500 mature individuals survived worldwide as of 1996, according to the IUCN, although it is uncertain of how many of them still survive in the wild. The diet of the deer, which consists of a variety of different types of grasses, leaves, and buds within the forest, is the primary indicator of its habitat. Since 1991 the range of the species has severely decreased and is now almost co-extensive with that of the Visayan warty pig.
In April 2009 a team of British and Filipino scientists discovered evidence of two separate groups of deer in the North Negros Natural Park. These signs (scat and feeding sites) are believed to be the first scientific evidence of the deer's activity for over 25 years. It is estimated that an estimated 300 animals survive on the island of Negros. Conservation efforts are currently underway with the intention of preserving the remaining population of the species but are poorly funded and supported.
The deer is small and short-legged yet it is the largest endemic species of deer among the Visayas. Adults range from 125 to 130 cm (49 to 51 in) long from the head to the base of the tail, 70 to 80 cm (28 to 31 in) in shoulder height and 25 to 80 kg (55 to 176 lb) in weight. This species is easily distinguished from other species of deer in the Philippines by the distinctive "A" pattern of beige spots which dot its deep brown back and sides. Other distinctive features include cream underparts and white fur on the chin and lower lip. The animal's head and neck are brown, but lighter than the body, and the eyes are ringed with paler fur. Males are larger than females and have short, thick, bumpy antlers.
The species' range once covered the shoreline up to at least 2,000 m above sea level. Its habitat is in dense cogon grassland, and primary and secondary forest. Most of its habitat consists of areas where its diet of young shoots of cogon grass and young low-growing leaves and buds are plentiful. Besides areas that are dense in vegetation, it could also thrive in places it could graze. They may also visit burnt-out forest clearings for the floral ash. Due to the now restricted range of the deer, it is impossible to ascertain the preferred habitat of the species.
The deer breed from November to December, although mating could begin earlier. Males have a roaring call to attract females. Reports mostly mention a single calf with a mated pair, although conclusive evidence on the number of young is not available because of the rarity of sightings. Calves are born after a gestation period of around 240 days. Weaning takes place at six months and the calves are mature from 12 months.
This species is fully protected under Philippine law. Hunting and forest clearances as a result of logging activities and agricultural conversion are thought to be the causes of a devastating drop in the numbers of the deer (a 1991 survey found that the deer was present in only 5% of its former range). Despite this, the deer still exist in the more remote areas, specifically in the protected habitats of Mt. Canlaon National Park, North Negros Forest Reserve, Southern Candoni, and West Panay Mountains (a proposed National Park). In 1990, the Philippine Spotted Deer Conservation Program was set up to facilitate the conservation of the species. Some of the deer have been held in captivity in Mari-it Conservation Centre in Panay, two breeding centers in Negros, and in a number of European zoos.