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Long term face analysis of male red deer reveals suitability of the nose-lip-mirror for the lifelong identification of individual animals
  • Zabel Frank
Zabel Frank
Stiftung Tierarztliche Hochschule Hannover

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Habitat fragmentation due to human encroachment have significantly impacted the genetic diversity and population dynamics of red deer (Cervus elaphus) in Western Europe. Recognizing the urgent need for conservation and management measures, this study sought to identify markers for the lifelong identification of male red deer. Traditional markers, such as antlers, proved unsuitable for long-term recognition due to their variability. This project therefore aimed to identify markers for the lifelong recognition and identification of male red deer, focusing on facial features as potential markers. The author analysed a dataset of 12,662 images of red deer, emphasizing characteristics that could facilitate long-term recognition. A total of 49 male red deer were tracked over several years, based on a subset of 7,252 images. From this dataset, image-series for 25 different male red deer were created, spanning from 2 to 9 years (average 5.5 years, median 6.0 years). All images in a series were cropped to focus the attention on the face, removing antlers and other distracting body features. The results showed that muzzle patterns were a distinctive feature to discriminate individual male, but they were not suitable for the long-term identification of individual male red deer, as they changed over time in some cases. However, the shape and features of the nose-lip-mirror of male red deer remained consistent throughout the documented lifespans of the 25 indviduals. The nose-lip-mirror has proven to be a reliable and age-independent marker for the lifelong identification of male red deer, offering valuable insights for conservation efforts and population monitoring.