The Père David's deer is extinct in the wild, but we're working together with other conservation zoo's to recover their numbers. Our herd is a part of the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme, 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.
Already facing threat from habitat loss, these deer were hunted to extinction in the wild in the early 1900s, but thanks to conservation breeding programmes managed by ZSL in 1986 together with other zoos, some of the deer have been successfully reintroduced to the wild in selected areas of China.
Père David's deer facts
- In its native China the species is considered to have a mixed appearance, made up of the neck of a camel, hooves of a cow, tail of a donkey and antlers of a deer and as such is known as ‘sze pu shiang’, which means ‘none of the four’.
- Père David's deer are known for their unique antlers which point up and backwards.
- Père David's deer are the only type of deer to have 2 sets of antlers in a single year.
Père David's deer conservation
In 2023, we welcomed 13 extinct in the wild Père David's deer fawns to Whipsnade Zoo.
In 2020 we welcomed 14 fawns to the herd, an important milestone towards conserving the species. 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 – a habitat which visitors can usually drive around to see the deer, and the camels that they share their home with.
Zookeeper Gracie Gee, said about the new arrivals: “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 Whipsnade Zoo.”