An extremely rare Philippine spotted deer, one of the most threatened deer species in the world, has been born at Chester Zoo.
The tiny male fawn arrived on Boxing Day and his proud parents have just shown him off for the first time.
Zookeepers hailed the arrival as ‘a big boost for the species’ with fewer than 2,500 of the animals now estimated to remain in the wild.
Tim Rowlands, curator of mammals at the zoo, 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.”
Watch: A short clip of the newborn Philippine spotted deer
The Philippine spotted deer is listed as endangered on Internal Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of threatened species.
Just 2,500 are estimated to remain in the wild as a result of illegal hunting and large scale habitat loss.
For over a decade conservationists have been supporting efforts to protect and restore the deers’ habitat in the Philippines where specialist breeding centres have been set up.
They have also been striving to breed a back-up population in Europe at the request of the Philippine government.
“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,” Tim said.
“The country has already lost over 90 per cent 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.
For more on the zoo’s Act for Wildlife conservation programme in South East Asia click here.