Category Archives: Updates

Indonesian Hydrosaurus review

Hi everyone,

    For this new and long due article on species identification, I chose to focus on the Indonesian species from the genus Hydrosaurus, also called sailfin lizards or even dragons because of their amazing look. Following a 2020 publication describing two new species from Sulawesi, there are now five species in the genus Hydrosaurus, four of which live in Indonesia and the fifth one in Philippines.

    Two of the Indonesian species are more or less regularly found in zoos and in the trade but there are lots of challenges about their proper identification and it seems that “intergrades” (I would be tempted to just call them hybrids as the two species don’t seem to naturally be in contact at all in the wild) do occur in the trade, in fairly big numbers.

    The information I am sharing with you here comes from my own observations in Indonesia and from traded animals in Europe, USA and Asia. I have also used the latest publication on Indonesian Hydrosaurus species (dating from April 2020) and describing the two new Hydrosaurus from Sulawesi, accessible at THIS LINK. And as additional help and photo sources, I have also used an Indonesian blog that has proven to be very useful, especially for comparison of phenotypes ! This blog, called Riqnauf is accessible at THIS LINK.

    I won’t go through any detailed explanations about the morphology and behavior of Hydrosaurus lizards since the purpose of this article is to help identify the species and clarify the differences between Hydrosaurus amboinensis and Hydrosaurus weberi in particular. For more information, you can refer to the species pages on Pierre Wildlife’s website and the various resources available on google. I have seen only one of the five species of this genus in the wild, in Philippines. Here are two pictures of juveniles and females Hydrosaurus pustulatus found on Negros Island, in the Western Visayas archipelago.

    Now let’s focus on Indonesia. In order to properly identify our animals, provided they are not hybrids of course, we need to focus on four main physical characteristics : the shape of the rostrum (presence of a crest-like appendage or flat rostrum), the amount of large conical scales on neck and upper flanks (presence, absence, shape of the scale arrangements), the shape of nuchal and dorsal crests (uniform vs. interrupted) and the coloration pattern (although that can be variable, knowing that most Hydrosaurus species tend to darken with age, some males being nearly totally black).

    Let’s start with probably the most misidentified of all these species, the Ambon sailfin lizard (Hydrosaurus amboinensis). It is not only the biggest of all Hydrosaurus but the one with the brightest coloration as well. It also has the largest range of all Indonesian Hydrosaurus, occurring on Ambon and on New Guinea. True Hydrosaurus amboinensis are actually rare in captivity and very difficult to come by, yet they are actually quite simple to recognize. First, their nuchal and dorsal crest in totally uniform with no areas with smaller spines or scales or less raised spines. Second, their coloration pattern is unique, usually bright green getting yellow or even light orange on lower flanks with black spotting often merging to form a well recognizable reticulated pattern. Third, this species, even for bigger males, has no appendage at all on its rostrum and has a “flat nose”. And last, this species has no visible clumps of conical scales visible on its neck and its flanks which is the easiest and most accurate way to tell it from all the other Hydrosaurus species. Here are some photos taken from the Indonesian blog called Riqnauf, featuring some truly remarkable specimens :

And here is one of my only photos of a true Hydrosaurus amboinensis from Indonesia

    The other often misidentified species of Indonesian Hydrosaurus is the Weber’s sailfin lizard (Hydrosaurus weberi). This is, in fact, the commonest species of its genus in captivity today, at least outside Indonesia. In the wild, the species is endemic from Halmaheira and Ternate islands, in the Moluccas Archipelago. There are two major ways to tell apart Hydrosaurus amboinensis and Hydrosaurus weberi : 1/ H. weberi has a disjunct crest with the nuchal and the dorsal part being separated by a “lower” area with much smaller scales and 2/ H. weberi has a distinct row of clear conical scales on the sides of the neck then isolated conical scales forming some sort of a line on its upper flanks. Furthermore, Hydrosaurus weberi has little to no appendage on its rostrum (allowing for an easy differenciation with the two species recently described from Sulawesi) and its coloration, although variable, is usually much duller than H. amboinensis. Its head and legs are often quite dark (especially for males) and its flank color can go from yellowish to nearly grey, often with a “peppered” aspect due to the black edges of each clear flank scales. Again, here are some photos from the Riqnauf blog showcasing exceptionnal individuals belonging to this species :

Here is a male Weber’s saiflin lizard from Jakarta Zoo (this is the most typical form found in captivity in Indonesia and often in zoos worldwide) :

And here is an unusually coloured specimen from Dallas Zoo, labelled as H. amboinensis but clearly showing some “weberi” features such as the conical scales and already visible crest interruption between the nape and back. This specimen could actually be a hybrid.

Next are the two new species that are endemic from Sulawesi. Those two have been described long ago but were only recently resurrected, in a publication going back to April 2020. Both of these species are found in the trade but are globally rare in captivity, especially outside Indonesia where they are very seldom seen. Both of these species share a common trait, the presence of a well developped appendage on the snout giving them a distinct head profile and allowing for an easy differenciation between them and the two previously analysed species, namely H. weberi and H. amboinensis.

Hydrosaurus celebensis is likely the most striking of the two Sulawesi species, and also possibly the rarest under human care (although that needs to be investigated). This species usually is very dark in color (it often has completely black tail, head, breast and limbs) with a paler and “peppered” (often light yellow-white to grey-white) area on middle flanks. This species has small clumps of conical scales on upper flanks, linked to thin vertical lines of large scales going to the bottom of the flanks. These scales are clear in color but in really colorful specimens, these clumps of scales can turn light blue. Again, here are some photos from the Riqnauf blog showing stunning adults :

And a photo of an unidentified Hydrosaurus from an Indonesian zoo that could be H. celebensis although its identification is far from sure yet.

Hydrosaurus microlophus, from Sulawesi too is superficially similar to H. celebensis with its round appendage on the snout and its globally dark coloration although H. microlophus often has a lot less black (usually restricted to the face, limbs and end of tail) on its body. Its flanks and breast are dirty yellowish to olive with less of a peppered aspect. But the easiest identification criteria to look for is the presence of large clumps of black conical scales oriented diagonally on the upper flanks. These scales look a lot less neat than those of any of the other Hydrosaurus and their diagonal orientation and darker coloration is a good way to tell too. Let’s first see some more stunning specimens, courtesy of Riqnauf blog.

And a really beautiful and characteristic adult that I was fortunate to photograph in Batu Secret Zoo, in east Java.

And to finish this article, here is a collage found on Riqnauf blog showing you the four species of Hydrosaurus lizards from Indonesia side by side ! Top left : Amboinensis, Top right : celebensis, Bottom left : microlophus, Bottom right : weberi.

Thank you to the owner of Riqnauf blog for showing us such extraordinary animals, thank you to my friends from the Hydrosaurus messenger group for the help and for taking me into this, and thank you to my wife for encouraging me to dig deeper into Identification issues !

I hope this article will help you sort out your Hydrosaurus identifications until we get to learn more with future publications ! In the meantime, take care.

Founder, Pierre Wildlife


The “cataphractus” case

Hi all !

     I thought I would talk briefly about the groundbreaking work done by Matt Shirley and his team on the Slender-snouted crocodile populations in Africa and the implications that work and the publication have on the captive populations of this species.

     Slender-snouted crocodiles (Mecistops cataphractus) are found in western and central Africa and are currently listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN on their Red List. The link to the species’ assessment page is available Here.

     Matt Shirley and his team managed to study both populations of Mecistops and ended up reviving the formerly synonymized species known as Mecistops leptorhynchus. This species was described in the early XIXth Century if I am not mistaken and the name applies to the Central African population, the one from West Africa retaining the name Mecistops cataphractus.

     In terms of conservation, this is quite big as we are already struggling to preserve what is now known as the “Mecistops cataphractus species complex”. Now that the populations are distinct species, things become even more difficult and two different conservation strategies need to be implemented to make sure both species survive in the wild. It seems logical, due to the species-complex assessment by IUCN, to say that the newly revived species is most certainly critically endangered as well.

     I have been lucky to talk to Matt Shirley about his work and about the identification of captive specimens of Mecistops species around the world. The information I am about to disclose is the result of our conversation and additional (ongoing) researches online and through my contacts network.

     First, concerning the American captive population of Mecistops, according to Matt, all specimens have been tested and happen to be pure Mecistops cataphractus (West African population). The specimens kept at Bali  Reptile Park haven’t been tested but Matt ID’d them as Mecistops cataphractus as well with very little to no doubt at all. There could be other specimens in Asian zoos but I haven’t seen them yet so they were not included in our conversation.

The Slender-snouted crocodiles (Mecistops cataphractus)
in Bali Reptile Park, in 2017.

     The European population is more interesting in terms of history and identification. According to Matt, but no genetic testing has been performed to back this claim up so far, most if not all living cataphractus from European collections look like Mecistops cataphractus, Western population again. We can only hope that the studbook keeper for this species in Europe will soon be able to conduct genetic testing to ensure that we don’t keep hybrids indeed.

     But there is one exception to this ! Rotterdam zoo used to display two very old Mecistops that were brought as a gift by superstar singer and dancer Josephine Baker in the early 1930s. Their origin is apparently unknown and both of these specimens lived to become the world’s oldest captive crocodiles ever known (they are featured in the Guiness book of records). These crocodiles were named Hakuna and Matata. One of these crocodiles looked definitely like a pure cataphractus but the other one, according to Matt and his team, really looked like Mecistops leptorhynchus. Unfortunately, no genetic testing has been performed so far to back up this information but the scientist told me that this identification is almost sure (90%). If verified, this would be the only known and verified Mecistops leptorhynchus ever kept in zoos.

Here is my best photo of what could well be the world’s only known
captive specimen of Mecistops leptorhynchus. It died of old age in 2013
at Rotterdam Zoo (Netherlands).

     Now, what we need to do, knowing that and besides genetic testing, is investigate the origins of the breeding pair from what used to be Noorderdierenpark Emmen. This pair sired what is probably the majority of known Mecistops in European zoos today. Phenotypically, they and their offsprings look like pure cataphractus but we should test them because if they have been produced in Rotterdam from what would be a hybrid pair if genetic testing confirm the leptorhynchus ID, then it would mean that the European stock would feature a majority of hybrids that would be worthless for breeding and conservation purposes. I am hoping that this matter will be investigated soon before further breeding efforts are carried in European zoos.

     Other specimens that must be investigated are the ones born at the Ferme aux Crocodiles park in Pierrelatte, France. I have been told that the park used to house three old wild-caught specimens and many babies were born there. Some of them were temporarily on display at the Aquarium Tropical in Paris, France, back in 2007. Let’s hope that the founders of this particular group all belonged to the same species !

One of the two subadult Mecistops cataphractus born at Pierrelatte’s
Ferme aux Crocodiles and displayed for a few months in Paris’ Aquarium tropical.

      To sum up, I would say that this issue with a new species being either revived by spliting or described clearly shows you why taxonomy should never be overlooked and proper identification and tracking of breeding specimens should always be a primary concern for all zoos that are serious with captive breeding for establishing insurance populations of critically endangered animal species. Any hybrids in the mix would make the efforts nearly worthless and could spell doom on wild populations if any reintroduction is to be performed.

     Let’s follow up with this Mecistops case and feel free to share any reliable information on the Facebook group of Pierre Wildlife or on any other relevant group. For those of you who are interested in getting the scientific publication for the description of this new species, you can follow THIS LINK. And if you want to find out which zoo currently keeps Mecistops in Europe, you can check out our partner Zootierliste at THIS LINK.

Thanks for your support as always !

Pierre de Chabannes
Founder, Pierre Wildlife


Rebranding and more

Hi everybody !

    First, allow me to appologize for the lack of updates but the first seven months of 2018 have been very busy for me ! Not enough hours in a day to do everything so I had to postpone updates to a later time. Now, at last, I have a bit of time although the end of August will bring even more business with work and, most importantly, my wedding !

    But let’s turn our focus to the website for a minute. As some of you might have noticed, the name Photozoo is gone and the project is now called Pierre Wildlife. All the pages that used to be available under the Photozoo name have been rebranded with new logos to fit the new description of the website. There are two reasons for this rebranding: 1, the name was too close to the Photo Ark project’s name for which I am working… it caused enough confusion to become troublesome, and 2/ I felt that Photozoo didn’t quite suit what I was really doing anymore… sure, I still take photos in zoos, but I do more and more consulting work (both for zoology, education and conservation) and am more and more involved in production, pre-production and post-production of photographic trips along with other duties included in my work for National Geographic. Furthermore, I felt that my project isn’t much a photo project… it is an education project linked to conservation. Therefore, instead of using names of activities or places that are secondary, I chose to broaden the scope and use my own name… so, I introduce you to “Pierre Wildlife” !

Despite all this work, I was able to spend some time in the field in Asia
and was lucky to spot beautiful wildlife such as this male Scarlet-rumped trogon (Harpactes duvaucelii) in Sepilok Rainforest Discovery Centre.

    As said earlier, all the features of Photozoo Collection and the old Photozoo photo gallery are still there and available under the URL . You will find that the zoo pages have been slightly modified (Check out the new Yangon Zoo page for example) and lots of new pages have been added in different countries such as Czech Republic, United Arab Emirates or Myanmar (the last two visited for the first time in March 2018). With the rebranding, I had to reupload all PDF files displayed in each species pages with new copyrights and brandings. The uploading is finally complete and you can check out this example with the Eyelash palm viper’s page. More than 1700 species pages are online and much more will be uploaded in the future.

One of the beautiful areas near Yangon, Myanmar, is the famous Hlawga Park.
This huge place is like a gigantic open safari where you can watch hundreds
of macaques and deers living freely in beautiful open spaces such as this
grassland leading to one of the lakes. Far away in this picture, some
hog deers (Axis porcinus) can be spotted.

    My travel schedule has also been very busy with three trips to Asia planned this year and two already done. The first trip took me to Malaysia to give presentations at the MAZPA conference about education in zoos. This was a beautifully organised event and I am really happy to see that Malayan zoos are setting to follow the path of the world’s best zoos. My gratitude goes to Dr Kevin Lazarus, director of Zoo Taiping and MAZPA, Gerard Woong, director of Malacca Butterfly and Reptile Sanctuary and Vice-president of MAZPA, Dr Gino Ooi, Director of Penang Bird Park and treasurer of MAZPA, and Junaidi Omar, head of education at Zoo Negara, for allowing me to come and giving me the opportunity to collaborate in helping Malayan zoos to grow.

    During this trip that occurred in March, I took the opportunity to visit the United Arab Emirates for two days and was very impressed by the quality of the collections of Al Bustan Zoological Centre, Arabia’s Wildlife Centre in Sharjah and the Sharjah Aquarium. Another discovery in this trip was Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. I spent nearly 8 days in this amazing country and visited zoos in Yangon, Naypyidaw and Mandalay.

Probably the biggest highlight of the trip, the beautiful and very rare
Rufous-necked hornbill (Aceros nipalensis) is found in all of
Myanmar’s biggest zoos.

    I went back to Asia in May, first with my wife for some holidays coupled with photography in different places such as Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity, to spot the critically endangered Giant ibis, then with Joel Sartore and a filming crew from CBS’s famous magazine 60 Minutes in the Philippines. The second part of this trip, with Joel, is the result of the 2 months I spent last year in Philippines scouting for the Photo Ark so I was very proud and thankful to be on board this photography trip. Despite the difficulties of navigating a country made of islands with very heavy yet fragile photographic gear, this trip was a great success and Joel Sartore managed to secure fantastic shots of most of Philippines rarest species, including the Philippine eagle and Walden’s hornbill.

Kali, the very last tamaraw alive under human care treated us with very
nice pauses for the Photo Ark ! He will now live forever with this great project
and will be the ambassador of his species in publications to come (I will keep
you posted about this later).

    That’s about it for now… more to come of course with new species pages that will be added soon and another Asian trip in November, targeting Malaysia, Singapore and Java. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy Pierre Wildlife and what this project has to offer. Thank you so much for your continuous support, it is much needed and appreciated !

Yours truly,

Pierre de Chabannes
Founder, Pierre Wildlife


Pierre Wildlife’s travel schedule for 2018

Hi everybody !

     Now that 2018 is already well underway, it’s time for me to let you know more about the very intensive travel schedule that awaits me for this year (knowing that it is likely to get even busier). As most of you know, when I am off to travelling somewhere, it is more and more to work for pre-production and production of shootings for the National Geographic Photo Ark project for Joel Sartore. I do also travel exclusively for Pierre Wildlife but this has become a rarer occurrence these days, with my work schedule for National Geographic getting busier.

     Last year (and in 2016 as well), I was lucky to go twice to Asia. First, from early may to july, a very long scouting trip taking me through Hong Kong, Taiwan, Philippines, Java and Bali and then a lecture trip (see previous updates) at the end of the year, covering Philippines and Mainland Malaysia. Going to South East Asia is a true blessing and this year, I am very excited to say that I have already three trips organised and confirmed to South East Asia and a fourth trip on the way to approval !

Giving a talk in front of volunteers, educators and curators at
Zoo Negara Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur), last november.

     This year’s first Asian trip will occur at the end of March and early April. This time, it isn’t a pure National Geographic assignment trip (although I will talk about the Photo Ark project in different places) but it has been made possible thanks to the generosity of MAZPA (The Malayan Zoo Association) and my good friends at Zoo Negara Malaysia. I am honored to be one of the keynote speakers at a MAZPA-organised event about education in zoos, called AMAZED (All MAlayan Zoo EDucators). Hats off to everybody at MAZPA for organising such an interesting event and allowing me to be part of it.
While going to Asia, I will make a one day stop in Dubai to visit some zoological collections there (on the way in and way back), hoping to see some of the Arabian Peninsula endemics ! This trip is also the occasion for me to discover a new South-east Asian country: Myanmar ! The fauna there is very rich and not always well known. There are very few information about the zoos and rescue centers in this country so visiting the main collections there (and hopefully some wildlife rehabilitation centers) is very exciting !

     Late april to early June, I am going back to South-east Asia, first with my fiancée (touring around Cambodia, Sabah, MAinland Malaysia and Singapore), then as an assistant and trip-producer for Joel Sartore for more than two weeks in the Philippines. Another Photo Ark shooting trip is already planned for Indonesia later this year. I will have more information about this soon but the species we are going to photograph there are very exciting !

The endangered and very poorly known Siau Island Tarsier (Tarsius tumpara), kept at Ragunan Zoo in Jakarta (Indonesia), will be a major target for us this summer.

     In terms of animal species, all these trips are likely to be very exciting, even concerning the places I have been to a few times like Singapore, Mainland Malaysia and Sabah. In Singapore, I am looking forward to spending time at the Wildlife Reserves and at the fabulous SEA Aquarium to see what new rarities the team working there will have found. Last time (November), I was greeted with 25 new species, knowing that I already visited three times in June and July the same year.

The rare Rhomboid wrasse (Cirrhilabrus rhomboidalis), recently described and
endemic to a small Atoll in the Marshall Islands. This was one of the new exciting
species displayed at the SEA Aquarium in November !

     Of course, I am also looking to get new shooting opportunities for species that I have on picture already but are so rare or so unique that new occasions are always important. Amongst them are the Critically Endangered Helmeted hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil) kept at Penang Bird Park (Malaysia) or the Tamaraw (Bubalus mindorensis) on Mindoro island (Philippines).

The splendid adult female Helmeted hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil) from Penang Bird Park, taken during the Photo ark shooting tour in Malaysia, back in 2016.
I am looking forward to seeing her again this year !

    Seeing and photographing wild animals is something I enjoy more and more doing despite having usually very little time and finding this hobby quite frustrating when your targets are a no-show (Bornean bristlehead, missed twice already). I am still motivated and will try my best to see and take decent photographs of as many wild animals as I can around South East Asia within my very limited timeframe. Of course, species endemic to Kinabalu Park on Borneo are still high in my list (particularly the Whitehead’s trogon) !

I never get tired of seeing wild animals, even when I have already seen them before quite well. There is a very good observation spot for Collared broadbills (Eurylaimus ochromalus) on the boardwalk of the Sepilok Rainforest Discovery Center. Being there at the right time will allow you to get very good views of a group that is far from shy !

     At last, I still hope to find a bit of time going around some European collections (I will be in west Germany for a quick 4-days zootour from 8th to 11th March) and I hope to have enough time to keep updating Pierre Wildlife’s species pages regularly. For your information, we are now standing at around 1800 animal taxa featured in the species’ pages ! More will come and, maybe someday, most of my collection will be online !

     I will keep you updated on the travel schedule and will try to post more identification articles soon ! Until next time, take care and thanks again for your support !

Yours truly,

Pierre de Chabannes
Founder, Pierre Wildlife

Let’s cross fingers for the very last tamaraw under human care, a male named Kali,
to be still alive when we come to photograph him again in May ! In the meantime, you can find Pierre Wildlife’s animal species page for the tamaraw by clicking HERE !


The mousedeer headache

Hi everybody !

     Here we are… a brand new year for Pierre Wildlife with lots of travel projects, new species sightings and much more to come ! 2018 is really going to be exciting ! But before writing about my schedule for this year (this will be in another soon-to-come update), I wanted to open the discussion about a topic that I have been trying to work on for more than 5 years. It deals with mousedeer species identification in captivity and, as the title says, it has proven to be a true headache !

   We are going to focus about the genus Tragulus because this is where all the identification trouble has occurred in recent times. What I mean by trouble is identification issues at species level (but also subspecies sometimes) because of the recent split of Tragulus javanicus, the Javan mousedeer, in two species. A few years back, all “Lesser mousedeers” from mainland Asia and greater Sundas were lumped under the name Tragulus javanicus with many subspecies known. Now, Tragulus javanicus is restricted to the island of Java where two color forms are known to occur (their taxonomic status might still be discuted at this time). The lesser mousedeers from Vietnam to Malaysia, Borneo and Sumatra are now listed as Tragulus kanchil (kanchil meaning mousedeer in Malay).

     Two other mousedeer species are known to be kept in zoos. The Greater mousedeer (Tragulus napu) with two subspecies found in the main zoos of South East Asia is apparently absent from European collections. I think there are still some specimens in American zoos but this requires confirmation. Subspecies rufulus, recognized by a well distinct black mask around its snout and eyes and its orange-rufous coloration is known from Singapore Zoo and was previously kept in Zoo Melaka (Malaysia). Nominate subspecies, darker brown with very faint mask on face, is still kept in Zoo Melaka and is also known from one or two other Malayan zoos.

Tragulus napu napu from Zoo Melaka. This subspecies is darker brown.
The species itself is much larger than the lesser mousedeer and shows longer
white neck stripes and mottling on back.

The rare Tragulus napu rufulus, endemic to Pulau Tioman (Malaysia) is the same
size as nominate subspecies but has a distinct black mask around eyes and snout
and a much more orange coloration. Those characteristics are well visible here.

     The other known species of mousedeer from zoos is the endangered Balabac mousedeer (Tragulus nigricans), endemic to Philippines. In size and coloration, it looks like a very dark version of the Greater mousedeer. The species is more and more represented in Europe and is kept in big numbers in Philippine’s biggest zoo, Avilon Zoo.

With its nearly black back and flanks coloration, the Balabac mousedeer is
impossible to mistake with any other mousedeer species.

     So far, we are out of harm’s way as those taxa discussed above are relatively easy to recognize. Now comes the trouble with the Tragulus javanicus / Tragulus kanchil complex. In Europe, all Lesser mousedeers are still identified as Tragulus javanicus but, to me, most if not all Lesser mousedeers in Europe actually are Tragulus kanchil for a few different reasons. First, let’s go back to the latest importation of Lesser mousedeers to Europe, done by Mr Radoslaw Ratajszczak, at this time director of Poznan Nowe Zoo. At the time of the import, the split of Tragulus javanicus wasn’t yet accepted so these mousedeers came to Europe under the accurate identification at the time. The papers were filed under the name Tragulus javanicus so, legally, even if the taxonomy has still changed, they are known as T. javanicus.

From my latest conversation with Mr Ratajszczak (I am fortunate to count him as a friend), it appears that the mousedeers imported to Poznan were originally from Indochina (Thailand most probably). In this case, following the new classification, their scientific name is Tragulus kanchil affinis. The Poznan mousedeers have bred very well and were sent all over Europe in the last decades. It would be interesting to take a look at the mousedeer population today and see if there are any other mousedeers from different imports still alive at this time. Anyways, most of the captive stock in European zoos, if not mixed with possible other populations, should be known as Tragulus kanchil affinis.

One of Europe’s numerous Lesser mousedeers in zoos, this one taken at
Zooparc de Beauval in France.

Tragulus kanchil affinis from Vietnam, kept at Cu Chi Wildlife
rescue center, near Ho Chi Minh City.

     From a physical point of view, Tragulus kanchil and Tragulus javanicus are superficially similar but can be told apart by the darker coat of Tragulus javanicus, especially on back and neck. The top of head is nearly black as well. Tragulus javanicus also has a slightly shorter snout and different jaw size (the jaws are only visible when close examination is possible, this is unlikely in zoos). So far, I have seen true Tragulus javanicus only on Java island, in a small exhibit of the Taman Mini Indonesia Indah complex (known as TMII) near Jakarta. This exhibit is now closed and replaced by a big butterfly hall.

One of the only true Tragulus javanicus I have seen. There are more kept in other
Javan zoos and possibly in Bali zoos as well. As you can see on the picture, the
snout seems relatively short and the coat is significantly darker.

     But here is where it becomes even trickier… Some insular subspecies of Tragulus kanchil (particularly on Borneo and Sumatra) can be darker than normal (although some specimens show normal coloration). This becomes complicated especially when you know that many animals kept in Javan zoos are actually from Kalimantan (South Borneo) and Sumatra. The case arises with the Javan mousedeers displayed in Ragunan Zoo (Jakarta). These animals are relatively dark but with a different shade of coloration (and what seems to be a slightly longer snout) than the true T. javanicus shown above. I have yet to receive confirmation about this but these mousedeers might actually be Tragulus kanchil from Sumatra, in that case, they would belong to nominate subspecies Tragulus kanchil kanchil.

One of the Javan mousedeers in Ragunan Zoo. The snout doesn’t look as short as in the true T. javanicus and the coat has a completely different coloration, much closer to T. kanchil. Investigation is still going on to find out about their true ID.

     In Mainland Asian zoos, we find the same problem as in Europe because most zoos still use the old taxonomy and label their mousedeers as Tragulus javanicus. In all cases I have seen so far, these mousedeers were in fact Tragulus kanchil. In Malayan zoos, things can get more complex because there are two different subspecies in Peninsular Malaysia, fulviventer in the south and ravus in the north. Zoo Melaka keeps the southern population it seems whereas Penang Bird Park and Zoo Negara keep ravus. Zoo Taiping’s population ID is still being investigated.

Penang Bird Park (Malaysia) keeps a very nice breeding
group of Tragulus kanchil ravus.

      Most zoos in Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia keep Tragulus kanchil affinis but there is another possible issue coming up here as there are two very poorly known mousedeer taxa from northern Thailand and Vietnam: Tragulus versicolor (previously treated as a subspecies of T. napu, its presence in the wild is uncomfirmed at the moment) and Tragulus williamsoni (occurring as isolated populations in northern Thailand). So far T. williamsoni is only known from the holotype. It used to be treated as a subspecies of T. kanchil but being significantly bigger than the average mousedeer from the nearby areas (it would be Tragulus kanchil affinis). Although their presence in captivity in Thailand and Vietnam is unlikely, we must not rule out this hypothesis yet as I have seen a very dodgy specimen of Tragulus kanchil in Dusit Zoo (Thailand) back in 2009. At this time, the zoo identified some of their mousedeers are being Tragulus versicolor. I don’t believe this to be accurate but this mousedeer looked bigger than T. kanchil affinis and seems to have a different breast pattern. Is it a weird T. kanchil affinis or could it be T. williamsoni, or a hybrid… or something else… I haven’t managed to solve this problem yet.

My only photo of the dodgy Tragulus from Dusit Zoo in Bangkok, taken on
January 1st 2009. I haven’t seen this specimen on my other visits to this place.

     Luckily, some zoos keep track of their importations and this can allow for clear identifications, this sometimes bringing surprises. That was the case very recently in the worldwide famous Singapore Zoological Garden. We’ve talked earlier about their nice group of Tragulus napu rufulus but the zoo also keeps some Tragulus kanchil, breeding in the Fragile Forest exhibit. I would have thought that these animals would probably belong to one of the Malaysian subspecies as a sizeable proportion of  Singapore Zoo’s Asian animals is found in this neighbooring country. After asking the curator about their origin, it turns out I was only half right… The animals are in fact from Borneo and it is very possible that these are the only representants of their subspecies outside Indonesia and Bornean Malaysia. Their unique status still remains to be investigated but, in the meantime, I am very happy to report that Singapore Zoo keeps Tragulus kanchil klossi.

One of the Bornean lesser mousedeers (Tragulus kanchil klossi) kept at
Singapore Zoo, in the Fragile Forest walk-in exhibit.

     So, as you can see, mousedeer identification in zoos can be quite tricky if the proper data about importation and origin of animals isn’t preserved. This could apply to many other cases because one never knows what could happen to a species with the new scientific discoveries made on a nearly daily basis. Keeping track of the collection and making sure no hybrids are made is, to me, an important part of a modern zoo’s mission.

     I hope you will find this article useful ! If you have any question or want to debate, the Photozoo Collection’s facebook page is there for you ! Talk to you soon with another article about my travel schedule for this year ! Some exciting things are going to happen !

Thanks again for your support !

Gratefully yours,

Pierre de Chabannes
Founder, Pierre Wildlife


To an even greater 2018 !

Hi everybody !

     First, allow me to wish you a very nice end of 2017 and all the best for the year to come… success, love, anything that will make you happy ! On my side, 2017 ended with lots of optimism and a splendid Asian trip devoted mostly to lectures in Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore.

In the campus of the Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) in Perlis state, giving a lecture about the Pierre Wildlife project and my work with National Geographic, with the partnership of Nikon Malaysia.

     During most of November, I lectured around universities and zoos in Malaysia (I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my friends who helped making this tour possible, you know who you are). I was privileged to give a talk at the Nottingham University campus of Kuala Lumpur about Education in zoos and introduced the Pierre Wildlife project to the students of UUM, amongst others. I was also lucky to be able to give talks in the two most prominent zoos in Mainland Malaysia, namely Zoo Negara and Zoo Taiping.

     Of course, while in Asia, I spent time visiting animal collections and taking pictures of species that would be new additions to Pierre Wildlife ! My biggest number of new species came from the ever amazing S.E.A. Aquarium of Singapore. In a single day of shooting, after already visiting the facility more than 5 times in two years, I was able to gather more than 20 new taxa for the project, including an amazing eagle ray species.

The spectacular Ornate eagle ray (Aetomylaeus vespertilio), probably a world’s first display at the S.E.A. Aquarium of Singapore.

    Having time off between Philippines and Mainland Malaysia, I decided to go spend 4 days in Sabah, around Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan to search for wild endemics. While the quest for Bornean bristlehead and Whitehead’s trogon has still not been a success (this is already my second attempt to see both species), I was blessed to see another prized Bornean endemic during the morning spent hiking around Mount Kinabalu Park.

This Bornean green magpie (Cissa jefferyi) was gathering nesting material near the trail and gave me stunning views. This species was my last missing taxa from the Cissa genus.

     Around Sandakan, I decided to check out the proboscis monkeys sanctuary of Labuk Bay. There, two wild colonies of monkeys have been habituated to human presence and are fed daily on platforms that are easily viewed from a sheltered area. Unfortunately, the area around the sanctuary are totally cleared and covered with plantations of palm trees for the palm oil industry.

The dominant male proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus) in Labuk Bay sanctuary. He is giving a threat display to a nearby group of Crab-eating macaques.

     While in Sandakan, I decided to spend a few minutes visiting the Sandakan Crocodile Farm despite the fact that it didn’t have good reviews on social networks. Whereas the quality of exhibits is far from optimal, I was very surprised to see a number of very rare species on display such as the Strickland’s shama and the Bornean thick-spined porcupine. That shows you that even the small parks with a so-so reputation can yield interesting species… at least, for those of you who, like me, are on the hunt for new species under human care, every single little collection is worth checking out, especially in Asia !

Another spectacular rarity from Sandakan Crocodile Farm, the Sabah partridge (Arborophila graydoni) !

     More new collections, new countries and presentations are being currently scheduled for next year so stay tuned ! In the meantime, I wish you the best and thank all of you for stopping by and for your support !

Gratefully yours,

Pierre de Chabannes
Founder, Pierre Wildlife

Pierre giving a talk about the National Geographic Photo Ark at the SEAZA conference in Manila. Thanks to Alex for the picture !


Pierre Wildlife Asian lecture tour

Hi everybody !

     We are now well in November and the zoo visiting season is nearly over in Europe, but not for Pierre Wildlife! I spent an extended weekend at the end of november in north-eastern Italy and neighbouring western Austria to visit some great zoos and private collections. Amongst the zoos, Parco Natura Viva and Alpenzoo Innsbruck stand out as being very interesting for the quality of their exhibits and, concerning Alpenzoo, for the many new rare species provided ! Alpenzoo Innsbruck, alone, brought me more than 20 new species !

One of the numerous European kingfishers (Alcedo atthis ispida) bred at Oasi di Sant’Alessio, in a fantastic natural exhibit.

But the public collection I was most amazed by was Oasi di Sant’Alessio, located near Pavia, in northern Italy (close to Milano). The park houses a great number of very rare species, many of them being native to the area, and the others are mostly South American. Animals under human care are not the only interesting thing in this park as wild species, including very rare treats such as the Pygmy cormorant (Microcarbo pygmaeus) can be found on the park’s grounds year round. Many European species such as European black stork, European bee-eater, Common kingfishers and others have been reintroduced in the wild after being bred on regular basis at Oasi di Sant’Alessio so hats off to the owners and workers of this amazing structure ! I strongly urge you all to check it out and support their great work !

     I also spent time in private collections, the most memorable being the amazing Monticello breeding center, located north of Milano, close to the mountains. There is found one of the world’s biggest private collections of owls and nocturnal birds of prey, featuring many rare species (a few of which I had never seen before). The center isn’t open to public and an appointment must be scheduled before visiting. The owner and director, Enrico, is passionate and very welcoming. I had a blast there and was really amazed by the surroundings, the collection, the beauty of these animals and the awesome breeding work (a Pel’s fish owl hatched while I visited the facility).

The very rare and distinctive Band-bellied owl (Pulsatrix melanota), kept and bred at Monticello breeding center !

     Finally, I would like to give my sincere congratulations to the team working for Spider’s nest company, organizing spider expos around Europe. I was lucky to visit the expo in Bolzano’s nature museum and I must say it is by far the best spider expo I have ever seen. The collection is impressive (over 50 species displayed, many rare ones), the exhibits are way better than average and the signeage and posters very instructive and educational. So hats off to Spider’s Nest for the great work !

Photographer Joel Sartore, founder of the National Geographic Photo Ark, and myself, during a Photo Ark photoshoot at the Bolzano Nature Museum, for the great Spider’s Nest expo.

     Now is time to go back to Asia for a three weeks trip, mostly for lectures and conferences but also for photography. I will give a presentation on National Geographic Photo Ark at the SEAZA conference in Manila and then will tour mainland Malaysia to give lectures about wildlife conservation and education on conservation in zoos and universities. This trip has been made possible thanks to the support of the Green Teen Team Foundation so a great big thanks to them for their support and generosity !

More updates to come when I will be back from Asia, in early December ! Until then, don’t forget to browse the updates zoo and species pages on the website !


Pierre de Chabannes
Founder, Pierre Wildlife


A very busy month of September !

Hi everybody !

     This month of september has been very busy for me with the visit of about 20 new animal collections in 4 countries I had never been to, namely Italy, Luxemburg, Poland and Portugal. Amongst these zoos, Wroclaw Zoo (in Poland) stands out as being Europe’s second biggest animal collection (and still growing). This zoo alone brought me more than 100 new animal taxa for Pierre Wildlife (a really rare occurence nowadays), raising my total number of animal taxa photographed to more than 10400.

One of Europe’s only breeding group of Angolan giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis angolensis) in Lisbon zoo.

     I also got the opportunity to take better pictures of many taxa including Angolan giraffes in Lisbon Zoo (Lisbon zoo houses a very interesting collection of species from former Portuguese colonies), Ocean sunfish in Oceanario Lisbonne and many more. My visits in Rome, Lisbonne and Wroclaw were done to prepare Joel Sartore’s upcoming European tour for the National Geographic Photo Ark project. Joel will be attending events and giving lectures throughout Europe during the last two weeks of October. You can find more about the National Geographic Photo Ark project by clicking HERE. For those of you who would like to see Joel working, a series of small movies called “Rare – Creatures of the Photo Ark” have been released by PBS and can be viewed on National Geographic Channels throughout the world and on different streaming websites.

One of the great surprises of my Polish scouting trip: This Red-knobbed imperial pigeon (Ducula rubricera) treated me with perfect views (the species is usually very shy and lives high in the canopy of trees), in Warsaw Zoo.

     Later in September, I spent two full weeks to scout most bigger zoos and aquariums in Poland for future National Geographic Photo Ark scoutings and in order to add more collections from this country in Pierre Wildlife. I was amazed by Warsaw zoo’s impressive bird collection featuring many European species, a few rare tropical birds and some great breeding successes recorded (amongst them one of the only captive breeding for Congo peafowl in Europe this year).

The impressive Ocean sunfish (Mola mola), star of Lisbon’s Oceanario. This specimen can still grow much bigger but weighs already 90 kilos. The species (and many other fishes from the main tank) has been trained to get food directly from its keepers so that its feeding habits can be monitored.

     Concerning the Pierre Wildlife website, I have added a few new species pages in the reptiles section, particularly monitors and pitvipers. Feel free to check them out as some are quite rare in captivity and in the wild ! You will also notice a new format for species pages ; I still have to update the already-published pages and turn them into this new format. This will require time and patience but I will, of course, keep you all posted !

     More exciting events are being currently scheduled so stay tuned for future updates ! Until then, take care and, as always, thanks a lot for your support !


Pierre de Chabannes
Founder, Pierre Wildlife