The Balabac Mouse deer or Pilandok is a major protein source for the native Molbogs of Balabac Island, Palawan. Generally shy, the mouse deer takes refuge in burrows dug under trees. These underground holes become favorite habitats also to pythons, which appear to be ‘friendly’ with the mouse deer. Natives described the relationship mutual. Accordingly, when the mouse deer is hunted with the aid of dogs, and when the mouse deer takes refuge in its hole, the python lies in wait to prey on the dogs.
The Balabac mouse deer (Tragulus nigricans) with its favorite food called “tubog” at the background.
The small, Balabac mouse deer or Chevrotain does not belong to Family Cervidae, the true deer family, but is a member of the Chevrotain family. Chevrotain is a French word meaning “little goat”.
When meat is cooked with “ogsom”, a fruit used to remove the characteristic odor of the mouse deer, the natives found it delicious. Its consumption by the locals caused endangerment to the population.
Balabac mouse deer are ruminants without horns with small canines oriented sideways. They have horizontally-oriented pupil adapted to night activity. The body is generally covered with brown fur, with blotches of dark-brown and white bands at the throat. The ears stand erect with white undersides.
The above mouse deer was captured near the shore when dogs cornered it. It is however difficult to find during the day. It is known to occur in dense areas of primary as well as secondary forests.
At night, they could be detected using a flashlight because their eyes shine brightly. They may also be encountered along roads bound by thick forests.
A native recounted that the mouse deer lives in its burrows sometimes protected by pythons which co-inhabit with it. When disturbed, the mouse deer takes refuge in its burrow while the python lies in wait to deal with the intruder which eventually becomes its prey.
Tubog, a tree with hard, berry-like fruit which grows even at the base of the tree buried under the sand, is the main food of the pilandok. They also feed on fallen fruits, leaves , buds, and grasses.
The Balabac mouse deer is endemic to the island of Balabac and is currently under endangered status.