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Kasturi tilakae – wearing a tilak of Kasturi -is one of the attributes of Lord Krishna in Hinduism. The word Kasturi (meaning musk - the perfume obtained from the stomach pods of the Kasturi mrig / musk deer) has a long association with Sanskrit literature and Ayurveda..
In a way it is a symbol for rarity and in the modern world it has become a byword for unusual objects, for it is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain in the world, and the price of genuine musk is today about 4500 per gram. Musk is incredibly useful in the construction of perfumes. It acts to chemically 'fix' or absorb and preserve the other volatile components-including the floral and vegetal essences of flowers, spices, grasses/herbs, and woods. It smooths and blends all of the other ingredients making it an excellent base material. In addition musk often imparts it's own scent into the perfume. Musk is one of the oldest materials used in perfumery. It is also used in the preparation of medicines to treat asthma, epilepsy, hysteria and other nervous disorders. Research has shown that musk is effective as a general stimulant for the heart and the central nervous system.
In the 1950s, annual ( legal) raw musk production in the world was 1400–1700 kg; in the 1960s 2000–3000 kg. Annual production thereafter decreased to. 1500 kg in 1970s and in the 1980’s to 500 kg and today in 2011 it can be as low as 250 kilograms. Reason… The musk gland is situated beneath the skin of the abdomen near the navel. In mature males, the musk pod / gland contains be- tween 12 to 20 gms of musk .. To get one bod weighing 20 grams of kasturi from the stomach glands of the musk deer, you have to kill it.
Musk deer occur in 13 countries in Asia and the eastern parts of Russia.. While scientists believe that the total population is between 400,000 ( 300000 in China and 100000 in Russia) the number in India is said to be much less.
In India the deer formerly existed throughout the entire Himalayan upper forest region …. parts of Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, the northern part of Uttar Pradesh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. But the Kasturi Mrug, is vanishing from its geographical epicentre of the Himalayas.About 4,000 adult male deer are killed annually by the poachers In 1986 their census was done – there were 30,000. Today there will be less than 5000 in India and they will be gone in another 5 years.
Reasons: The musk deer of India resemble medium-high dogs in size and the female musk deer rarely delivers more than two kids.. The musk is produced only from the age of 2 to 14 years only in the male deer.
In view of the high price of musk the animal is the most hunted in the world by poachers. They do not have any compunction and three to five musk deers are trapped by snares in groups and on an average there are only one male musk deer to three female musk deers. But the snares kill the female ones also and since an average of 40 male deer with sufficiently large glands are necessary to produce each kilogram of musk, this means that about 160 odd musk deers needs to be killed per kilo output..
All musk deer species have been protected by the International CITES pact to protect endangered species since 1979. In the countries of erstwhile USSR (mainly Russia) and China musk deer farms have been established for their rearing and breeding. In these farms, techniques are standardized to collect musk from the gland without killing the animal. In India, sporadic attempts by some ardent wildlife workers paved way for the establishment of four musk deer centres with barely three dozen animals.. . Attempts were made in the last decade to anaesthetize the captive musk deer and extract the musk from its stomach pods, thus preventing its killing. But the efforts were not successful.
Demand in China is many times that of India as musk is used in perfumes and over 500 chinese and Korean medicines for the last 6,000 years. Chinese demand is estimated to be annually in the region of 1000 kg of musk and to produce this amount, approximately 84,000 captive bred male musk deer would be required. But despite the best efforts for five decades since 1950, today the number of captive in the fourteen Chinese musk deer farams are only 1900 and only 450 of them are male musk deers yielding musk. Again the musk of captive deer is held to be inferior in quality to that of wild ones.
Hunted and poached to the point of extinction, the fate of the deer remains uncertain even though the European union banned the import of musk in 1999 forcing perfumers to switch to synthetic alternatives, the demand continues in the Orient edging this deer to its death. Conservation of this rare animal is of utmost importance today, as it is fast
heading towards total extinction.
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