Date: 19 Jul 2018
Belfast Zoo is celebrating the birth of the world’s smallest deer, a Southern pudu!
The latest arrival was born to mother, Jess and father, Flynn on 18 May 2018. For the first few weeks, keepers were giving Jess and the fawn time to bond and have therefore only recently discovered that the arrival is a male, who has now been named Maximus.
Southern pudu live in small herds often made up of a male, female and their young. With the arrival of Maximus, Belfast Zoo is now home to four of these deer including parents, Jess and Flynn, and their infant from 2017, Pascal.
Zoo curator, Andrew Hope, said “Pudu are one of the smallest members of the true deer family. In fact, adult pudus measure only 43 centimetres in height when fully grown! The male grows small antlers in the breeding season and he sheds these annually. Keepers had noticed Jess was displaying signs of pregnancy and, after a gestation period of seven months, she welcomed Maximus. At birth the fawn was so small that it only weighed about 900 grams which is less than a bag of sugar. Adults have a dark brown or reddish fur but when fawns are born their fur is light brown and they are covered in small white spots. This helps the infant to camouflage in the undergrowth, especially when the mother leaves to feed.”
What the pudu lack in size, they make up for in strategy. They often stand on their hind legs or on top of fallen trees to reach foliage. They are also good sprinters and run in zig zag patterns to escape from predators. They can even go for long periods of time without drinking, by getting most of their water from succulent plants.
Andrew continues “Southern pudu are found in the dense lowland forests of South Chile and south-west Argentina. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) believes that this little deer is facing a high risk of extinction in the wild. In the last 12 to 15 years, Southern pudu populations have declined by up to 20% due to a combination of threats including habitat loss, predation, hunting and competition from other species. There are no exact estimates of how many pudu are now left in the wild but experts believe that it could be as few as 10,000 and it is expected that this decline will continue in the future. Belfast Zoo’s pudus are part of the European breeding programme and it is vital that we play an active role in sustaining a viable captive population of the species. Maximus is therefore small but his arrival is hugely important to both Belfast Zoo and to the breeding programme.”
Belfast Zoo’s Southern pudus share their home with some other South American species including Southern screamers and red howler monkeys. In the winter, they also share their home with the Linne’s two-toed sloths!
Belfast Zoo is open every day at 10am, last admission is at 5pm and the zoo closes at 6pm. Swing by to visit all of the latest zoo babies, waddle on over to visit the penguins and all of your other favourites at the daily animal feeding times or find out more about the work that the zoo does at the keeper talks.