An extremely rare Philippine spotted deer has been born at Chester Zoo.
The tiny male fawn, which arrived on Boxing Day, has been shown off for the first time by its proud parents.
Zookeepers have hailed the arrival as “a big boost for the species” with fewer than 2,500 of the animals – listed as endangered on Internal Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of threatened species – now estimated to remain in the wild.
Experts say a combination of factors including illegal hunting and large scale habitat loss have contributed to the demise of the species.
As well as striving to breed a back-up population in Europe as a request of the Philippine government, conservationists from the zoo have been supporting efforts to protect and restore the deers’ habitat in the Philippines for over a decade, where specialist breeding centres have been set up in a bid to reverse the trend.
Tim Rowlands, curator of mammals, said:
“The Philippine spotted deer is one of the most endangered deer species on the planet and so a new fawn is very, very special – it’s a big boost for the species.
“Mum is doing a great job and the fawn, albeit a little nervous, is looking ever so strong. The spots on his thick coat are already very prominent. We learn more and more about these animals with every new arrival and, crucially, the zoo is also fighting to conserve the spotted deer, and other species, in their homeland.
“The Philippines are home to a unique and rich array of species but, due to a rapidly expanding human population and increasing levels of habitat destruction and poaching, many of them are coming under threat. The country has already lost over 90% of its original forest cover and is losing species at an alarming rate.
“Not only are we part of international efforts to breed a genetically viable safety-net population of Philippine spotted deer in Europe, we’re supporting breeding centres on the islands of Panay and Negros. Aside from breeding animals for future reintroductions, these centres are also vital hubs for training, research and education and for raising awareness of how special these animals are amongst local communities.”
In the wild, the deer can be found in the rainforests of the Philippines’ Visayan islands of Panay and Negros. It once roamed across other Visayan islands such as Cebu, Guimaras, Leyte, Masbate and Samar – but is now regionally extinct on those islands.