New Delhi: There is only one musk deer alive in the zoos across India. The detail furnished by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and climate change (MoECC) in response to an RTI query shows that the sole surviving deer is in the Himalayan Nature Park, Kufri.

White-bellied musk deer are an endangered species, highly vulnerable because of the prized musk pod they carry in their abdomen. There are only a few surviving in the wild and only one left in Indian zoos.

Noida-based RTI activist Ranjan Tomar told MyNation, “It is shocking that only one male musk deer is left in the country and zoo authorities are not worried about it. The situation is alarming and we cannot afford to let another species go extinct.”

The Central Zoo Authority (CZA) in the RTI response has said that one male musk deer has been in captivity since March 3, 2018 in Kufri.

Tomar stressed that zoo officials should immediately look for a female partner for this male or get one from overseas. “The deer has been in Kufri zoo since March last year. One year has gone but no initiative has been taken yet,” Tomar said.

The fanged and ‘fragrant’ musk deer are endangered. The scent is a distinctive part of their behaviour, using it to mark territories and communicate. The male produces musk that is also used to manufacture perfumes and soaps.

A senior ministry official said musk deer is a high-altitude animal, the zoos or sanctuaries for which is usually situated in the colder places. Several other high-altitude zoos like those in Nainital and Darjeeling had this species, but all of them died.

Indian zoos are marred by a spate of deaths of rare and endangered animals. It is the responsibility of zoos to ensure the population of these animals grows. They also arrange for breeding of animals through exchange programmes but, as seen in this example, they have failed to discharge their responsibility.

The endangered deer roam the high alpine region of the Himalayas. They fall easy prey to poachers and who kill them to extract the musk pod.

Carried by the male deer in its abdomen, the musk emits a sweet persistent aroma and is highly valued for its cosmetic and alleged pharmaceutical properties.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), 1 kg of musk can fetch US $45,000 in the international market. A musk pod yields about 25 grams of the brown waxy substance.