Pѐre David’s Deer

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Scientific Name: Elaphurus davidianus

IUCN Status: Extinct in the Wild (EW)

Quick Fact:  The Pѐre David’s deer is named for Armand David (Pѐre David), a French missionary working in China who first made the species known to Western science in 1866.

Learn more: Visit Ultimate Ungulates to learn about the Pѐre David’s Deer.  

The Pѐre David’s deer is a large deer species that is endemic to China. It stands up to 4 ft. tall at the shoulder and can weigh over 400 lbs. It has large eyes and prominent preorbital glands that they use for marking. The branched antlers are one of the most unique characteristics of the stags. The main beam extends almost directly upwards and the tines are numerous and irregular. They may have as many as two sets of antlers per year with the larger set present in the summer. The summer set is dropped in November and a second smaller set (if it appears) is fully grown by January. These fall off in a few weeks.

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Pѐre David’s deer have a reddish coat in summer, which changes to a dull gray in winter. Their tail is longer than most deer and their hooves are large and spreading, allowing them the ability to maneuver in the semiaquatic habitat they prefer. They are known to be good swimmers and will spend long periods standing in water up to their shoulders. They make a noticeable clicking sound when they walk, similar to reindeer.

Pѐre David’s deer feeds predominantly on grass.  A single fawn is born after a 9-month gestation period. They can live up to 18 years.

The Pѐre David’s deer has become an example of how a highly threatened species can be recovered from the brink of extinction. Due to being heavily hunted, as well as their swampland habitats drained, by the late 1800’s most of the remaining Pѐre David’s deer survived in the Nanyuang Royal Hunting Garden. In 1900, during the Boxer Revolution, the Garden was occupied by troops and the remaining deer were hunted, thus becoming extinct in the wild. However, prior to that, some of the deer had been introduced into private deer collections in the United Kingdom, France and Germany. Early in the 20th century, the 11th Duke of Bedford in the U.K. gathered the last remaining Pѐre David’s deer in the world and formed a breeding herd at the Woburn Abbey in England. For the next 100 years, the population of Pѐre David’s deer grew because of captive breeding programs around the world.

In 1985, the first conservation reintroduction of five male and 15 female Pѐre David’s deer back to China occurred in the relic site of the Nanyuang Royal Hunting Ground. Since then, there have been 53 herds of Pѐre David’s deer established around China totaling approximately 2,000 individuals. All are presently contained within artificial boundaries to alleviate conflict with local farmers and are subject to captive management, thus they are still listed as extinct in the wild.. There has been a preserve selected for reintroduction into the wild, but this last step has yet to be taken.

Highlights

The Genus name of Pѐre David’s deer, Elaphurus refers to their long donkey-like tail.

When fighting, males not only use their antlers and teeth but also rear up on their hind legs and ‘box’.

The Pѐre David’s deer is an new species for White Oak in 2016. The Asian deer species live in similar habitats to the Greater One-horned rhino and will be managed in the same multi-species enclosure. We currently house a bachelor herd of males.