Rare tufted deer born at CRC

The National Zoo’s Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal, Va., welcomed a female tufted deer fawn—the fourth species to give birth in one week at CRC—on July 16.

Photo: (Click on thumbnail for fullsize image.) The female tufted deer born July 16 at the National Zoo’s Conservation and Research Center. (Photo by Lisa Ware)

Tufted deer, named for the tuft of hair on their forehead, live in temperate deciduous forests from southern China into northern Myanmar. Much of tufted deer’s range overlaps with that of the giant panda and it is found most abundantly within giant panda reserves. The species is listed as near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and remains rare even in captivity; there are fewer than 110 animals maintained in zoos in the United States.

Since 1994, 11 tufted deer have been born at CRC. National Zoo scientists are currently conducting reproductive research with the species focused on cryopreservation and artificial insemination technologies in the hope of increasing its population.

Tufted deer grow to about 16-20 inches in height, the size of a medium-sized dog—significantly smaller than their better-known North American counterparts, the ubiquitous white-tailed deer. Like their white-tailed relatives, tufted deer browse and graze on grasses and other vegetation. Despite their herbivorous diet, however, the upper canines of males develop into short tusks, which they may use for fighting. Very little is known of the ecology of these species, as there are no contemporary studies of them in wild.

Tufted deer are typically solitary animals, and the mother will raise her fawn alone, although the father usually remains with the pregnant mother until she gives birth. The fawn and its parents will not be on display to the public.

Posted: 27 July 2009
About the Author:

Kristin Sourbeer is an intern in the Office of Public Affairs at the National Zoo. She is also a senior at Duke University, where she is studying public policy, environmental science and music.