Species: Pere David’s deer (Elaphurus davidianus)
Status: Extinct in the Wild (EW)
Interesting Fact: Pere David’s deer is named after Pere (Father) David, a French missionary who persuaded the Emperor of China to send some of the last remaining Chinese herd to Europe, thus saving this species from extinction.
A Chinese name for the Pere David’s deer is ‘sze pu shiang’, which translates as ‘none of the four’. This refers to the deer’s appearance as it looks like it has the neck of a camel, hooves of a cow, the tail of a donkey, and antlers of a deer. The stags may bear two pairs of antlers each year, with a larger set in summer for the rutting season, and a second set growing in January.
Almost driven to extinction, this deer now only survives in captivity. Originally inhabiting open marshland and plains of China, this deer was easily hunted. The last population in China was found in the Emperor of China’s ‘Imperial Hunting Park’, where catastrophic floods in 1865 killed the most of the population and the rest were killed during the Boxer rebellion a few years later, where troops killed and ate every surviving deer. Only those deer sent to Europe were left. Fortunately these bred well, saving this species from extinction.
In the 1980s, a population of the Pere David’s deer was reintroduced to the Dafeng Nature Reserve in China. Numbers have increased, and the deer are now contained within enclosures where the population is protected from hunting. It is hoped that at some point in the future a free-ranging population will be established in China.
Find out more about the Pere David’s deer on the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums website.
Lauren Pascoe, ARKive Researcher