CERS supports a number of ongoing researches. Most current are PhD thesis by a number of promising scholars, both foreign and in China. We are also working on a number of flagship species of animals, including ongoing research to the Black-necked Crane, Wild Yak, Musk Deer, and others. On the Social Science and Humanities fields, we also support various important or innovative researches.


Written by William Bleisch, PhD
Photography by Henley Leong

Mandalay and the Ayeyawaddy River

Dolphin good-bye. As we finished our first interview, in Myitkangyi Village, we asked for any news of dolphin mortality.The village head and other informants responded that one female dolphin about 4.5 feet in length had been killed in Jan. 2013. He went on to say another had been killed in May near Yallin Village. I moaned and put down my pen, but he was not finished. Another dolphin, 2 and a half feet long, so almost surely a calf, was killed in August in Tha Yat Bin. And another… By the time he was done, he had listed a total of five killings, all in 2013, including two calves. All five had been electrocuted, killed by electrofishing.



William Bleisch, PhD
Luang Namtha

CERS field scientist Dr Paul Buzzard at work. It had been a long day’s hike, some of it quite steep. We rested in the evening on a tree-top platform outside the thatched hut, watching the stars, listening for owls in the dense forest all around us, passing around an old soda bottle filled with local rice liquor. Our young guide, Mr. Tua, picked up a simple bamboo flute that was lying among the cross pieces of branches that made up the platform. The flute wheezed and blurted out a few sorry notes. I tried as well. The flute was in a style I had not seen before, not like Chinese flutes, held horizontally, but rather made like a recorder, with a whistle-style sound hole cleverly carved and topped with an adjustable bamboo ring. But the bamboo was old, and I could not get the adjustment right.



Paul Buzzard, PhD

Mukesh with fungus hunters. There was little rest for the weary: After 2 and half weeks in Myanmar (Burma) and a night in Kunming I flew to Kathmandu, Nepal. The next morning I flew to Dhangadhi in the oppressively hot Terai lowlands that border India in SW Nepal. Shaking off the fatigue I quickly put on my game-face because I was excited to be joining Dr. Mukesh Chalise and his PhD student, Narayan Koju to the remote and newly established Api-Nampa conservation area in the Himalayas bordering India and China in NW Nepal.



William Bleisch, PhD
Luang Namtha, Northern Lao PDR

Mountain Red-bellied Squirrels for sale with other forest products in the Luang Namtha Day Market.I am standing at a crossroads, quite literally. From here at the bus terminal, I could go southeast to Luang Prabang and the temples of the ancient capital of the Lao Kingdom of Lan Xang. Or I could go north, to Muang Sing where the Lao, Thai, Myanmar/Burma and Chinese borders all come together in the Golden Triangle -where the drifters’ blogs report that Akha ladies from the mountains still hawk their “agricultural products” from the poppy fields on the streets. Or I could go east, across the border into Vietnam, to Dien Bien Phou, where, in 1954, General Giap and the Viet Minh army, supported by local Shan partisans, defeated the French colonial forces and their air force after a two month siege, a turning point for western colonialism in Asia. Or I could go southwest, back the way I have come, to the Mekong and on to Chiang Rai in Thailand, once the capital of Lana, a kingdom that stretched from Chiang Mai north to Jing Hong in China, and from Luang Prabang in Lao in the east nearly to Mandalay in Myanmar/Burma.



Wong How Man
Dujiangyan, Sichuan - 13 December 2010

This place is secretive like a missile base. Maybe our work is as important as the atomic bomb,” Cai Yonghua said wryly. Camouflaged breeding pen for Musk Deer inside the institute’s farm.Cai is Director of the Dujiangyan Musk Deer Breeding Research Institute. “For us to be able to sell the musk, we need approval stamps from up to six ministries, and only to a few approved client recipients.

“The panda is world-famous as an endangered animal. The Musk Deer, likewise, is Class One protected. The Panda, however, is only good for appreciation, whereas this deer can save a lot of lives. That is, if the government would deregulate and allow us to use market forces to grow this into an industry,” Cai said, revealing his thoughts about the “research institute” over which he is in charge.



Li Xue-You, PhD Candidate,
Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Science
Paul J. Buzzard,
Field Biologist,

China Exploration and Research Society (CERS)
August 2010

The expense and effort required to estimate true population size is usually prohibitive, but a number of methodologies have been developed to estimate population size and/or relative abundance in wild ungulates. The purpose of this study was to apply two methodologies: camera trap and sign survey on the musk deer population study, to compare the two methodologies for musk deer study, to obtain a better understanding of the distribution and habitat preference of musk deer at Langdu, and evaluate the suitability of the two methodologies for musk deer survey.

Nine transects totaling 20.1 km in length were surveyed within forest, grassland and flowstone habitats. A total of 5 camera traps were set. Results showed signs of the animal in the study site were significantly variable between species. It might be a practical measure using sign survey for musk deer distribution study. But it was difficult to estimate the population density for the quantitative relationship between the indirect index and the number of musk deer it represents in a certain period was difficult to establish in the field. Study revealed that there was only one species of musk deer – the Alpine musk deer (Moschus sifanicus) in the study area. Results from the sign survey showed the Alpine musk deer were rare in the study area and have an aggregated distribution. The pattern of distribution appeared to be affected by human disturbance. The defecation sites of the Alpine musk deer often overlapped with Tufted Deer (Elaphodus cephalophus). It might be the results of coevolution and adaptability in a limited habitat. Results also showed the Alpine musk deer preferred areas from 4180 to 4520 m in altitude. And the preferred habitat type was rhododendron forest, with a gradual decrease in preference for rock.

Due to some sudden agency, the pilot study only set up 23 camera days and didn’t capture any photos of wildlife. The camera days were too short to capture the photo of the animals for the home range of the musk deer was large. It was grazing season during our study, musk deer suffered the most human disturbance in this season and they might change their course and defecation place which made more difficult to get their photos. Additionally, the camera traps were checked every day which might disturb the animal. How to hide the cameras in a long period in the study site avoiding stolen by hunters or herders is a challenge for using camera traps. The cameras would be camouflaged with bark of the trees in the future study. Also it is necessary to conduct biodiversity awareness promotion for local people. Then the cameras could be set up in the forest safely and do not need to cheek every day. It might be increase the chance to capture the photos of the animal. Although we didn’t get any photos of the animals, might be a promising method for estimating the density of the musk deer by capture and recapture the photos of the animals.

Hunting and over grazing were the most serious threat to musk deer in the study area. Local minority especially Lisu and Tibetan who have no religion had the custom to hound. Along our transects, 23 traps made by steel cable were found. This was ruinously destructive for wildlife. Musk deer would be extinct if this kind of hunting couldn’t be forbidden.

Download the full PDF survey report.