Species Series – mouse deer

Wildlife

There are two species of mouse deer found in Sabangau – the greater mouse deer (Tragulus napu) and the lesser mouse deer (Tragulus kanchil). Both species are mostly nocturnal and very shy and so they are not seen very often in the forest. However, they have been caught by our camera traps, looking for fruit on the forest floor, sometimes during the day.
Mouse deer
Mouse deer are small deer that only live in the forest. They are herbivorous and mainly eat fallen fruits, leaf shoots and fungi. They make up an important part of the food web of the forest as they are one of the primary prey species of the Sunda clouded leopard.
The Indonesian word for mouse deer is ‘kancil’ but it can also be the word for a ‘clever person’. In local folklore the mouse deer is depicted as being very clever. In one particular tale there is a mouse deer called Sang Kancil and a crocodile called Sang Buaya (buaya means crocodile in Indonesian). Sang Kancil wants to cross a river to reach fruit on the other side. He can’t cross the river on his own because it is too wide and if he tries to swim across the crocodile Sang Buaya will try to eat him. So the clever Sang Kancil comes up with a plan – he tells Sang Buaya that the King is inviting all the crocodiles to a feast and that he has asked Sang Kancil to count how many would be coming. He tells Sang Buaya to ask the other crocodiles to line up across the river and he jumps across each one of their backs, counting as he goes. When he gets to the other side he thanks the crocodiles and trots off to eat the fruit!

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