One of the world’s rarest deers has been born at Chester Zoo .
The tiny Philippine spotted deer fawn – a species listed as endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s red list – was led out for her first public appearance by proud parents Tala, aged five, and Bulan, aged six.
The zoo’s new arrival is the latest to be born to an acclaimed conservation breeding programme – set up at the request of the Philippine government – which is working to ensure a healthy and genetically viable back-up population of the animals in Europe.
Conservation experts fear that fewer than 2,500 Philippine spotted deers now remain in the wild.
They have already become extinct on several islands in the Philippines – largely due to intensive illegal hunting and huge deforestation - and can now only be found in forests on the islands of Panay and Negros.
Also known as the Visayan spotted deer, zoo conservationists have also been supporting efforts to protect and restore the deers’ habitat in the Philippines for more than 10 years, where they have also helped to establish specialist breeding centres.
As well as breeding animals for future reintroductions, these centres are vital hubs for training, research and education and for increasing awareness of the species amongst local communities.
Curator of Mammals at Chester Zoo Tim Rowlands said: “Every Philippine spotted deer birth is very special indeed.
“Globally, this is a species that is under severe threat, pushed to the very brink by a rapidly expanding human population and increasing levels of illegal poaching and habitat destruction.
“We won’t stand back and let a beautiful animal like this simply disappear forever though.
“The zoo is, crucially, fighting to protect the Philippine spotted deer in its homeland, while the arrival of this calf is another significant and important step in the conservation of the species and for the back-up population in Europe.
“With every new arrival we are able to gather more and more vital information.
“Mum Tala has done a fabulous job up to now and her fawn is looking strong, with a fantastic healthy coat featuring prominent white spots and “striking blue eyes. “We’re ever so pleased with her.”
For more on the zoo’s Act for Wildlife conservation programme in South East Asia, visit www.actforwildlife.org.uk