Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pere David's Deer

(Image Source)
Phylum : Chordata
Class : Mammalia
Order : Artiodactyla
Family : Cervidae
Subfamily : Cervinae
Genus : Elaphurus
Species : davidianus

Height : 4ft (1.2m)
weight : 290lbs (135kg)

IUCN Status : Extinct in the Wild

The Pere David's Deer is named after French Missionary Pere (Father) Armand David, who first publicized the species to the outside world in 1865. They are also sometimes referred to as Milu. The deer had become more or less extinct in their native China, but the emperor had kept a large herd within his Imperial Hunting Park. David worked tirelessly to export some of these deer to Europe, and it was lucky that he did, because a terrible flood killed most of the park's herd not long after. All remaining deer in China were killed and consumed by soldiers during the Boxer Rebellion.

With all the deer in China gone, the European specimens were all the world had left. The Duke of Bedford collected 18 individuals from different zoos and brought them to Woburn Abbey, where he worked on a captive breeding program. Though the two World Wars resulted in some setbacks, by 1946 there were over 300 deer at the park.

(Image Source)
In 1985 the first captive bred herd was released into Beijing Milu Park, and 1986 another group was brought to Dafeng Milu Natural Reserve, north of Shanghai. There are now several hundred Deer in Chinese reserves. The overall world population is increasing, and does not seem to be adversely affected by the inbreeding that had to take place over 100 years ago.

Pere David's Deer historically lived in swampy marsh areas. They are reddish brown in the summer, and take on a more gray color in the winter. Males have antlers that they shed off each year. Females have a long gestation period that can last up to 9 months, and they typically give birth to one or two fawns.

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