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Rare Species in Hainan

2021-09-18 16:54:46

Nomascus hainanus

Nomascus hainanus, commonly known as Hainan black-crested gibbon, is a primate endemic to Hainan Island and a national first-class protected animal. This rare mammal also indicates the integrity and authenticity of the Hainan rainforest ecosystem. It is only found in the BaWang Ling area of Hainan Tropical Rainforest National Park. At the 19th Congress of the International Primatological Society in 2002, Nomascus hainanus was identified as the most critically endangered primate in the world.

Protection class

It is a Class I national protected animal. It is also listed as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Morphological characteristics: Hainan black-crested gibbons look like monkeys but have no tail. They can live up to 40 years on average and adults weigh about 10 kg. Usually 5-10 gibbons live in a social group. This species generally reaches sexual maturity 8 years after birth. A female gibbon often gives birth to one baby each time every two years after a gestation period of 7-8 months. Hainan black-crested gibbons are born with golden brown hair, which turns black after 6 months or so and tells the difference between males and females as the gibbons become sexually mature. An adult male gibbon is black while the female is golden in hair.

Habits: The acoustic structure of Hainan black-crested gibbons is different from that of other apes. The first cry every morning is made loud enough to mark their territories, and that is how researchers monitor the population size of this species. Each gibbon group occupies a home range of 2 square kilometers. The most common food sources for Hainan black-crested gibbons are the fruits and young leaves from more than 130 plants such as Litchi canensis, Ficus auriculata Lour., Clusiaceae, Skeels, Blume, Castanopsis, and Bischofia javanica. Juicy fruits make the best choice for them, but sometimes they feed on bird eggs too. As a kind of arboreal animal, the Hainan black-crested gibbon species move around or seek food in forest canopy.

Conservation status: In an attempt to protect Hainan black-crested gibbons, a provincial-level nature reserve in BaWang Ling area was approved for establishment by the People’s Government of Guangdong Province in 1980, when there were only 7-9 gibbons living in two groups. In 1988, the reserve was promoted to a state-level nature reserve with the approval of the State Council. Strict conservation efforts and habitat restoration have contributed to the steady increase in the population of Hainan black-crested gibbons. Today, 35 individuals are living in five social groups in the reserve.

Rucervus eldii hainanus

Rucervus eldii hainanus (Cervidae, Mammalia), is also called Hainan Eld’s deer.

Protection class

It is an endemic species of Hainan, and a Class I national protected animal. Among 17 deer species in China, the Hainan Eld’s deer is one of the rarest. It is also listed as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Morphological characteristics

The Hainan Eld’s deer look like sika deer and have reddish brown hair. Male deer have antlers but no obvious spots scattered on the body as sika deer do. However, two stripes of spots can be found on their brown back. As a Hainan Eld’s deer leaps, its body extends to about 160 cm long and its shoulder height is between 104 cm and 110 cm. A deer weighs about 70-130 kg. This species usually has reddish brown or yellowish brown hair. The color of the back is darker, and a longitudinal black brown dorsal stripe can be observed from the neck to the tail base, dotted with white flower-shaped spots on both sides. Each spot is the size of a coin and they are about 3 cm apart. In addition, some white markings are found scattered in the hips. The males have darker hair than the females, especially during the mating season. In late autumn and early winter, the hair of the Hainan Eld’s deer becomes long and thick. The middle of the back is black brown, and white spots that are arranged on each side of the spine tend to diminish and would not be made visible until the next spring. The color on the sides of the body and the external part of the limbs is lighter, while the abdomen and the limbs inside are off-white. The face and the back of the ears are yellowish brown, while the ear rim is black and the inside of the ear is white. The back of the tail is chestnut brown, and the ventral surface is white or light brown.

An adult Hainan Eld’s deer has less noticeable spots in winter, and the body is long and narrow. Its neck and limbs are also elongated. The long hair on the back is not clearly visible. Its main hooves are narrow and pointed while the side hooves are smaller. Females have no antlers. The antlers of males grow forward and then bend slightly upwards, while the axis is initially backward, and then bends up and stretches forward. There are no diverges found under the longitudinal axis, but in fact they grow higher at the upper end of the axis. The axis is connected with the antlers, forming a large arc, almost bent like a bow. The upper end has 3-6 sharp and thin tips of different lengths, differentiating this deer species from sika deer and other deer. The antlers are over 100 cm long and 12-13 cm thick. The tips are more than 78 cm apart, and the antlers are as long as up to 45 cm.


The Hainan Eld’s deer mainly inhabit the hilly slopes or flat land below 200m above sea level. The Chinese name, Po Lu, shares the same meaning as flat land in Hainan dialect.



The Hainan Eld’s deer mate in spring and summer and breed in autumn and winter seasons, contrary to what other deer species do. This is because they have adapted themselves to the tropical environment of Hainan Island for long. The Hainan Eld’s deer are not good at defense, but their superior running and jumping abilities ensure that they can survive in the wild. They are social animals, but males with long and large antlers prefer to live alone. They often appear in groups (3-5 female deer and fawns) by the brook, in the grassland of a valley and wet farmland, or in burned areas. Up to 12 individuals are gathered during the rut or in the mating season. They mostly go out for food in the morning and evening, especially after heavy rain. They are able to endure drought and heat. Though often found foraging near the meadows with water, they are not observed to bath in water or mud. It is said that the Hainan Eld’s deer used to forage in daytime or even get close to or mix with herds before they were pushed to the brink of extinction. Human intervention, however, forced them to come out in the morning and at night.


The main food for the Hainan Eld’s deer is grass and tender foliage, such as Chrysopogon aciculatus, Zornia and Streblus lour., as well as sweet potato leaves, tender rice seedlings and cane seedlings. They particularly like to eat water grass planted by the water or in the swamp. In addition, they often lick saline and alkali soils to supplement minerals and salt their bodies need.


The Hainan Eld’s deer have keen senses of sight and hearing. They are fast runners that are especially good at jumping. They are so alert during foraging that they often raise their head to look around for danger in the wild after taking every two or three bites. After a hasty meal, they would soon disappear. Once predators come nearby, the deer will immediately gallop across high trees, bushes or wide brooks, as if they are flying. In the native place where the Hainan Eld’s deer are discovered, another deer species Rusa unicolor are also found. It is believed that the latter likes to bite the antlers of the former, so the two species never share habitat. In fact, Rusa unicolor mainly lives in foothills at higher altitudes, quite different from the habitat of the Hainan Eld’s deer.


The Hainan Eld’s deer community mainly lives in Bangxi town in the Baisha Li Autonomous County and Datian Town in Dongfang City.


The Hainan Eld’s deer is a polygamous mammal. Females begin to breed from 2 years old until 10 years old. The rutting season most commonly takes place in winter and early spring, while the breeding period lasts from February to May. Usually, 1-2 fawns are born each year, after a gestation period of about 225-342 days. Calves at birth are weaned within 4-6 months and reach sexual maturity at the age of 2. The fawn is mainly fed by female deer. Male deer seldom nurse their young even though they live in a group.

Hopea hainanensis

Hopea hainanensis, a tree species in the genus Hopea (Dipterocarpaceae), is an indicator plant of Hainan rainforest.

Protection class

It is a Class I national key protected wild plant. It is also listed as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and the China Plant Red Data Book.

Distribution and habitat

Hopea hainanensis is distributed in Hainan (Sanya, Ledong, Changjiang, Baisha, Wuzhishan, Wanning, Lingshui, Qiongzhong, Baoting, Qionghai, Dongfang and other mountainous areas), Guangdong (Hepu), Yunnan, Guangxi (Nanning, Qinzhou), Fujian (Fuzhou), and other provinces in China. It is also introduced to tropical areas of South Asia.

The plant grows in dense forests at elevations around 700 meters. It can adapt to hot, moist and damp habitat in calm wind, and it is often mixed with Manglietia hainanensis Dandy, Homalium hainanense Gagnep., Ficus auriculata Lour., and Schefflera octophylla (Lour.) Harms.

Morphological characteristics

Hopea hainanensis is an evergreen tree that can grow 10-20 meters tall. Its leaves are leathery, elliptical or oblong-elliptic, about 7-12 cm long and 4-6.5 cm wide. The leaves are short and acuminate at the apex, and slightly rounded on the base. Dry leaves are yellowish brown on both sides, covered with tiny powdery scales. There are 7-9 sets of lateral veins on a leaf, with protrusions on the lower part and parallel thin veins that are not obviously visible. The petiole is 1.5-2 cm long and rugose. Its flowers are arranged in acrogenous panicle inflorescences (3.5-7 cm) and in the upper axil of leaves, with star-shaped small pubescence. The small flowers are mainly distributed on the side of the branch of inflorescences and densely covered with gray pubescence. The peduncle is thick. The flower of the plant is very short. The calyx-lobe is leathery in the elliptical oval shape and with a length of about 2.5 mm. It is sunken and rounded at the top, densely covered with gray pubescence outside. 15 stamens are arranged into two rounds before the mature flowers are observed, with wide and thin filaments on the lower part outside (abruptly narrowed at the top), and linear filaments inside. All the stamens have no pubescence. The anthers are oval and elliptic, and the filamentous appendage on the top of the connective is about 1 mm long. The near-cylindrical ovary has no pubescence and the style is short. The fruit of the plant is oval, about 1.5 cm long, with short and convex tip at the top. There are adhesives on the fruit surrounded by enlarged persistent calyx. Two oblanceolate calyx lobes expand into the shape of wings, and they are about 7 cm long, with 9-11 longitudinal veins. Flowering lasts from June to July, and the fruits are available in November and December.

Vatica mangachapoi

Vatica mangachapoi, a tree species of the genus Vatica (family Dipterocarpaceae), is an indicator plant of Hainan rainforest.

Protection class

It is a Class II national key protected wild plant. It is also listed as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Distribution and habitat

Vatica mangachapoi grows in forests at middle elevation in China (Hainan province excluding Haikou City as well as Lingao and Chengmai counties).

Morphological characteristics

Vatica mangachapoi is a tree up to 7-25 meters tall, with small branches, petioles and inflorescences densely covered with small star-shaped pubescence. Its leaves are leathery, oblong or lanceolate, about 5 to 13 cm long and 2-5 cm wide. The apex is short and tapering or sharp-pointed, and the base is wedge-shaped. The dry leaves are yellowish green on both sides with no pubescence but vein enation. The petiole is 7-15 mm long. The panicle is arranged in the upper axil of leaves, with a length of 4 to 8 cm and densely covered with pubescence. The peduncle is as short as about 2 mm. The linear calyx lobes are long (3 mm) and rounded, with obtuse ends and dense star-shaped pubescence on both sides. The petals are white, linear and in the shape of a spoon, about 8-11 mm long. The star-shaped pubescence is widely found outside the petals while no pubescence is observed inside. The flower has 15 stamens, and the ovary is spherical, star-shaped and puberulent. The style is short and the stigma is in the shape of a head. The fruit of the plant is spherical, about 6 mm in diameter, supported by enlarged persistent calyx beneath. Calyx lobes have winged structure yet they are not equal in size, with the largest two 3-4 cm long and 11-16 mm long. The top of the fruit is circular with longitudinal veins. It blossoms between May and June and fruits between August and September.

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