Eld’s deer is an endangered species confined to dry forests of Southeast Asia. With the largest populations occurring in Myanmar, the Smithsonian Institution engaged the government and local organizations in conservation efforts. Nationwide, there has been a decline in both dry forest and deer distribution since the 1980s, despite the deer having national and international protected status. The deer persist in two national protected areas, Chatthin and Shwesettaw Wildlife Sanctuaries. From 1995 to 2005, the Smithsonian intensively upgraded facilities, staff capacity, and local education at Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary and documented a marked rise in deer numbers. Following a 2005 pullout by the Smithsonian and a steep decline in international funds, deer populations at this reserve declined rapidly to below 1995 levels. This period coincided with a near complete loss of suitable habitat outside the reserve, repeated changes of reserve leadership, and emphasis on sustainable livelihoods for the surrounding communities rather than enforcement. At Shwesettaw Wildlife Sanctuary, chronically low deer densities and lack of funding were dramatically reversed with the influx of military personnel around a new military base established inside the reserve. The military presence resulted in extensive forest clearing and was protested heavily by the Smithsonian and other international organizations as detrimental to the deer. However, the immediate response in Shwesettaw Wildlife Sanctuary has been an increase in deer numbers. Whether examining the “soft diplomacy” of public engagement and increased staff capacity or the “hard enforcement” by the military, both demonstrated that the species can respond rapidly to management actions; but the sustainability of these population responses without further government agency investment is uncertain.

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