Tata zoo role in rare deer survival

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  • Published 19.08.14

Homecoming prospects of a deer species will depend largely on the outcome of talks between Tata Steel Zoological Park and Pretoria-based National Zoological Gardens (NZG).

The forthcoming 69th Annual Conference and Technical Congress of World Association of Zoos and Acquariums (WAZA), scheduled in New Delhi from November 2-6, is set to give ample opportunity to the former to hold talks for making Tata zoo a breeding centre for Père David’s deer, a species that is extinct in the wild.

The Pretoria zoo is serious about making Tata zoo a breeding centre for Père David’s deer. It wants to use Jamshedpur as a route for relocation of the deer to its natural home in the subtropics of China.

Tata zoo director Bipul Chakravarty, who will be attending the WAZA conference, said “No headway vis-à-vi Père David’s deer has been made for the past two years. But my Delhi visit may help channel things.”

Père David’s deer, or Elaphurus davidianus, is a species found only in captivity, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. About 1,400 deer are alive at a handful of breeding parks around the world.

The deer, distinguished by their branched antlers and a long tail, have a liking for aquatic plants. When not grazing grass, they are excellent swimmers. The animal was regularly hunted and almost wiped away by an 1895 flood in China. But Père David, a Frensh missionary, had managed to send a flock to Europe, saving the deer from extinction.

Chakravarty is hoping to hold talks with NZG managing director Clifford Nxomani at the conference. “In Nxomani’s absence, I will meet other senior functionaries of the Pretoria zoo. I am hopeful of positive results,” he said, adding that he would also meet functionaries of Central Zoo Authority.

Nxomani was supposed to visit Jamshedpur in 2012 but the trip did not materialise. He had even sought word from CZA about the best time visit the steel city and copy of hisletter was sent to Tata zoo.

A two-member team from NZG had visited Tata zoo in 2011 and appreciated the facilities for breeding and rearing animals. Moreover, Nxomani is believed to have strongly recommended Tata zoo to South Africa’s National Research Foundation, which was supposed to study and send a report to Conservation Breeding Specialists Group, a global outfit, for a final approval.

“We are always ready to use our facilities for breeding Pere David’s deer. The Pretoria zoo had initiated plans to use our zoo as a breeding centre. But things did not move further,” Chakravarty said.