Zookeepers at the UK’s largest Zoo have got a spring in their step, after welcoming 14 fawns to the Père David deer herd, a species which is officially classified as extinct in the wild.
Born with Bambi-esque white spots on their backs that fade as they get older, the fawns have been spotted by keepers skipping around their Passage Through Asia home – an exhibit which visitors can usually drive around to see the deer, and the camels that they share their home with.
Known for their unique antlers which point up and backwards, the rare deer are a part of the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme (EEP) - a tool used by zoos, aquariums and wildlife parks across Europe to manage conservation breeding programmes to ensure a healthy and diverse population of animals.
Zookeeper Gracie Gee, who captured the pictures said: “It’s great to see our herd growing so much this year as they are such an important group - helping to ensure the survival of this species.
“We’ve had 14 new arrivals and we all wish that our visitors were able to see them too, as they’re absolute proof of the incredible work we are doing to conserve precious species at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.”
Already facing threat from habitat loss, the deer were hunted to extinction in the wild in the early 1900s, but thanks to conservation breeding programmes managed by zoos, some of the deer have been successfully reintroduced to the wild in selected areas of China.
The closure of ZSL Whipsnade Zoo due to COVID-19 means ZSL, the international charity which behind the Zoo, finds itself in an unthinkable position.
Reliant on income from zoo visitors, the future of this iconic national institution hangs in the balance – putting its global science and conservation work at risk. Whipsnade’s elephants, tigers and penguins need as much care today as any other day, and ZSL needs help. As well as asking the government for support, ZSL has a live public appeal at www.zsl.org/donate - every donation makes a difference.