An ‘extinct’ deer has taken its first wobbly steps under the watchful eye of its doting mum at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.
The tiny Père David’s fawn, which weighed just 11 kilograms at birth, was one of four fawns born in May at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.
Declared extinct in the wild in 2008, by the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species, the rare deer species is endemic to the grasslands of China.
Zookeeper Graeme Williamson said: “The birth of an animal which is classified as Extinct in the Wild is clearly a special occasion and shows just how ZSL Whipsnade Zoo is helping to conserve species that might otherwise be lost forever.
“The fawn is doing really well and making the exact progress we would expect; she is quite literally coming on leaps and bounds and running around with the rest of the herd in their huge paddock.
“She will be weaned from her mother by the end of autumn, at approximately eight months old, and then she will be fully independent by the time she reaches her first birthday.”
The newborn fawns can be seen congregating in small ‘creche’ groups with adult females in the herd, in the Zoo’s Passage through Asia exhibit, where visitors can drive their cars among the deer and Bactrian camels.
The species was first described in 1866 and fortunately, by the time it became extinct in China, a number of animals were sent to zoos in Europe, including in the UK, as back-up populations.
In its native China the species is considered to have a mixed appearance, made up of the neck of a camel, hooves of a cow, tail of a donkey and antlers of a deer and as such is known as ‘sze pu shiang’, which means ‘none of the four’.