Rare Birth

22 April 2016

Delight at Père David’s deer birth

Yesterday, 21st April 2016, people across the country were celebrating Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday. Meanwhile, we were distracted by a special birthday of our own, as one of our Père David’s deer gave birth!

Perhaps an unappreciated species in our collection, our Père David’s deer are in fact one of the rarest species we hold. They can be seen in our drive-through section; the birth happened right next to the exit gate to the delight of a few visitors who stopped their cars to watch. Unfortunately, these deer are now extinct in the wild, which is why the arrival of this new faun is particularly important.

Père David’s deer are native to China, where they are known as milu. Their Western name comes from the work of a French missionary who worked in China in the 1800s, Father (‘Père’) Armand David. Père David became fascinated by a collection of the deer owned by the Emperor of China at the time, and managed to convince him to let some specimens be sent back to Europe. Shortly afterwards, due to extensive hunting and catastrophic flooding, the wild population in China was all but wiped out.

Thankfully, due to Père David’s actions, they have bred successfully in captivity across Europe since the late 1800s. We are thrilled to be the latest place where they have done so, playing our part in ensuring they don’t face complete extinction.