Tragulus napu (F. Cuvier, 1822)
by Mrs. Aziemah Binti Kinan
© Zaharil Dzulkafly

Tragulus napu, commonly known as the Greater Mouse Deer or Napuh in Malay, belongs to the Tragulidae family, a group of even-toed ungulates. This elusive animal is among the world’s smallest ungulate. T. napu has a head-to-body length of 500–600 mm, a shoulder height of 30-35cm, a tail measuring 8-10 cm, and weighs nearly twice the weight of the Lesser Mouse Deer (Tragulus javanicus), ranging between 3.5 and 4.5 kg (Francis, 2008). Despite its small size compared to other ungulates, the Greater Mouse Deer is one of the largest member in its genus, Tragulus. With its round body and thin, pencil-like legs, T. napu has unique features, especially with its longer hind legs.

According to Francis (2008), T. napu has mottled fur with a mix of orange-buff, grey-buff, and blackish on its upper parts, darker along the center of its body, and lighter on the sides. It often has a darker patch on the back of its neck. Its underparts are white and usually don't have brown stripes on the belly. The male species don't have horns or antlers but have small "tusks" which are well-developed lower canine teeth that stick out from their upper jaw.

In addition, the Greater Mouse Deer can be distinguished from the closely related Lesser Mouse Deer, T. kanchil, by several external features. T. napu has five throat stripes compared to three in T. kanchil and lacks brown stripes on the belly, a trait commonly seen in T. kanchil. T. napu also has a nape line and mottling on the underside (Meijaard & Groves, 2004; Francis, 2008).

The Greater Mouse Deer is widely distributed in Southeast Asia: South Myanmar, Southern Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, Borneo, and adjacent islands, Palawan (Philippines), and Singapore (Low et al., 2009). Eight subspecies are recognized currently (Low et al., 2009) with two subspecies found in Malaysia; T.n. napu occurs in Borneo, SE Borneo, Serasan, Bangka, Sumatra, Malay and Thai Peninsula, Burma, Langkawi, and Pangkor, while T. n. rufulus occurs in Batam, Galang, Setoko, Bulan, Tioman Island, Bintang, Lingga, Bakong (Meijaard, 2004).

Furthermore, T. napu is a forest species that inhabits subtropical/tropical moist lowland forests. It can be found at various altitudes, ranging up to 1,000 meters above sea level. These ungulates are solitary and prefer to live alone and in primary forests, secondary forests, and to a lesser extent logged forests. Occasionally, they may explore gardens and feed on fallen fruits, leaf shoots, and other plants (Medway, 1983; Francis, 2008). It is also known to be a good swimmer (Ralls et al., 1975).

According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, T. napu has been assessed as Least Concern (LC) at the global level (Timmins & Duckworth, 2015). However, the Malaysian assessment as shown in the Red List of Mammals for Peninsular Malaysia indicates that this species is Near Threatened (PERHILITAN, 2017). This species is threatened with poaching and habitat loss due to rapid deforestation (Timmins & Duckworth, 2015). Therefore, protective measures have been implemented under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 (Act 716) in Malaysia, strengthening efforts to ensure the continued conservation of the species. This species is currently a protected species in the same Act (Act, 2010).

Yet, the effectiveness of conservation depends greatly on the combined efforts of people, communities, and government. Everyone needs to get involved in protecting wildlife by spreading awareness, supporting conservation programs, and promoting sustainable ways of living. By taking care of nature and acting responsibly, we can contribute to the long-term survival and well-being of species like the Greater Mouse Deer and their ecosystems.


  1. Francis, C.M. (2008). A Field Guide To The Mammals Of South-East Asia. New Holland Publishers, England. pp. 392.
  2. Low, C.H.S., Chan, K.W. & Lim, K.K.P. (2009). The Identity of a Mousedeer (Mammalia: Artiodactyla: Tragulidae) Observed at Lower Peirce Forest, Singapore. Nature in Singapore. 2, 467-473.
  3. Medway, L. (1983). The Wild Mammals of Malaya (Peninsular Malaysia) and Singapore. 2nd Edition. Oxford University Press, Kuala Lumpur. pp. 131.
  4. Meijaard, E. & Groves, C.P. (2004). A taxonomic revision of the Tragulus mouse-deer (Artiodactyla). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. 140 (1), 63-102.
  5. PERHILITAN. (2017). Red List of Mammals for Peninsular Malaysia Version 2.0. Kuala Lumpur: Department of Widlife and National Parks (PERHILITAN) Peninsular Malaysia.
  6. Ralls, K., Barasch, C. & Minkowski, K. (1975). Behavior of captive mouse deer, Tragulus napu. Zeitschrift fur Tierpsychologie. 37 (4), 356-378
  7. Timmins, R. & Duckworth, J.W. (2015). Tragulus napu. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T41781A61978315. Retrieved March 08, 2024, from
  8. Wildlife Conservation Act (2010). Laws of Malaysia Act 716
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