An elusive Sambar deer was caught on camera along Mandai Road on Monday, after a Grab driver nearly ran over it when it suddenly crosses the road in front of him:
The driver’s son, Donn Soh, shared the dashboard camera footage of the close call online and revealed that the incident occurred as his father, Nelson Soh, was driving to attend a funeral at the Mandai Columbarium shortly after noon on Monday.
Donn, who shared the video to raise awareness among drivers that animals were crossing the road in that area, revealed that his father was particularly surprised at the size of the deer, since he had never before seen such a large deer in Singapore.
Nature Society Singapore’s Vertebrate Study Group were able to identify the deer as a sambar deer, based the color of its fur as well as the animal’s size.
Sightings of the Sambar Deer in Singapore are rare. Over the years, the deer has been spotted only a handful times, around Mandai Lake Road, Bukit Brown Cemetery, near MacRitchie Nature Reserve and Upper Seletar Reservoir.
In 2015, Nature Society (Singapore) said:
“Sambar deer sightings have been reported for a number of years now. It has been known that they frequent the Mandai part of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and has been reported as far south as Bukit Brown cemetery.
“The origin of this herd is not determined yet and the sambar deer population here is also not clear – possibly in the 20s.”
Interestingly, the Straits Times reported in the past that the Sambar deer became extinct in Singapore by the 1940s, due to poaching and habitats destruction.
In 1947, Dr C.A. Gibson-Hill of the Raffles Museum shared with the publication that the Sambar deer “are plentiful in parts of Johor, but has not been observed in Singapore for a number of years. Their last stronghold was the Bukit Timah Forest area. A Sambar was last taken there about 1920.”
Sambar deer can live for up to 20 years and can be found in other parts of Asia, such as the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, India and the south of China. According to Ecology Asia:
“The Sambar deer (Cervus unicolor) is among the largest of Southeast Asia’s deer. The male has a head-body length of up to 2 metres and weighs up to 260 kg. The antlers of the male usually have three tines (points). They are found in small herds of up to four animals.
“The Sambar deer was once found in a variety of habitats but is now confined mainly to primary and mature secondary forests due to hunting pressure. It is more active at night, from dusk to dawn. It feeds on grass shoots, vines and fallen fruits.
“It is now found from India, Sri Lanka and Nepal through Burma, southern China and Indochina, to Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.”
Sambar were most recently seen in October 2017, when a netizen on Facebook posted photos of two or three of the deer together. The photos have since been taken down.
Outreach Officer Kerry Pereira warned the public to be alert for animals crossing and to drive slowly along streets in forested areas, in order to prevent accidents that could injure not only the animals, but drivers and their passengers as well.
The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority, in cooperation with the Land Transport Authority, will be putting up signs to notify drivers of animals crossing in Tuas, Bukit Timah Expressway, Hillview, and other areas.
Netizens greeted the latest sighting of the rare positively, with a dash of Singaporean humor.