The Deer of David is a noble animal that has suffered from human activities and adverse environmental conditions. Due to many changes in their natural habitat, these animals have survived only in captivity. These deer are under international protection, and their population is constantly monitored by specialists.
Origin of the species and description
Deer of David is also called “mila”. This is an animal that is common only in zoos and does not live in the wild. Belongs to the deer family – one of the largest families of herbivorous mammals.
Deer are distributed almost all over the world: both in the cold regions of Yakutia and the Far North, and in Australia, New Zealand, America and throughout Europe. In total, the family includes 51 known species, although there are disputes about classifying some deer as separate species.
Video: David's deer
Deer are incredibly diverse. Their sizes can be quite small – the size of a hare, which is a pudu deer. There are also very large deer, reaching the height and weight of horses – moose. Many deer have antlers that are usually found only in males.
An interesting fact: Regardless of where a deer lives, it will still change its antlers every year.
The first deer appeared in Asia during the Oligocene. From there, they quickly spread throughout Europe through constant migrations. The natural continental bridge to North America also contributed to the settlement of this continent by deer.
At an early stage of their existence, deer, like many other animals, were giants. Due to climatic changes, they have significantly decreased in size, although they are still quite large herbivores.
Deer are symbols of many cultures, often present in myths as noble, courageous and courageous animals. The deer often represents masculine power, largely due to the polygamous lifestyle of males.
Appearance and Features
Deer David — it is a large animal. The length of his body can reach 215 cm, and the height at the withers – 140 cm, in males. Its body weight sometimes exceeds 190 kg, which is a lot for a herbivore. These deer also have a rather long tail – about 50 cm.
The upper part of the body of this deer is red-brown in summer, and the belly, chest and inside of the legs are much lighter. In winter, the deer warms up, acquiring a gray-red color, and its lower part becomes cream-colored. A feature of this deer is the guard hair, which has a wavy structure and does not change all year round. This is coarse long hair, which is the top layer of deer hair.
On the back from the ridge to the pelvis there is a thin black stripe, the purpose of which is unknown. The head of this deer is elongated, narrowed, with small eyes and large nostrils. Deer ears are large, slightly pointed and mobile.
David's deer has long legs with wide hooves. The long heel of the hooves may indicate a watery habitat, through which the deer moved without difficulty due to this physiological structure. The heel of the hoof can be wide apart as needed.
At the same time, the deer's body seems disproportionately long, in contrast to the structure of other large deer. The tail of a deer is also unusual – it looks like an elongated donkey's tail with a brush at the end. Males have large horns that are round in cross section. In the middle, thickest part, the horns branch, and the processes are directed backward with sharp ends.
The males also change these horns as much as twice a year – in November and January. Females are slightly smaller than males and do not have horns, otherwise they do not have sexual dimorphism.
Where does David's deer live?
The Deer of David is an animal that lives exclusively in China. Initially, its natural habitat was limited to the swamps and humid forests of Central China and its central part. Unfortunately, the species has been preserved only in zoos.
The body structure of the hooves of the David deer speaks of his love for humid regions. His hooves are very wide, they literally play the role of snowshoes, but in the swamp. Thanks to this structure of the hooves, the deer could walk on extremely unsteady terrain, but at the same time not experience discomfort and not drown.
The purpose of the elongated body shape of this deer also becomes clear. The weight is proportionally distributed on all four legs of this animal, which also allows it to hold on to swamps and other places with unstable soil.
The legs of this deer are very strong, but it is not inclined to run fast. The swampy area where these deer used to live requires careful and slow walking, and in this way the deer move even on stable ground.
Today, the David deer can be found in many major zoos around the world. First of all, these are, of course, Chinese zoos, where this type of deer is revered in a special way. But it can also be found in Russia – in the Moscow Zoo, where the species has been kept since 1964.
Now you know where David's deer is found. Let's see what it eats.
What does David's deer eat?
David's deer are exclusively herbivores, like all other representatives of the deer family. In zoos, he eats natural food – grass that grows under his feet. Although experts give nutritional supplements to these animals to keep them healthy and live as long as possible.
The natural habitat determines some of the taste preferences of these animals.
For example, their diet may include the following plants:
- any aquatic plants – water lilies, reeds, reeds;
- marsh mud;
- the roots of marsh plants that deer get with their long snouts;
- moss and lichen. Due to their high growth and long necks, these deer could easily reach the high growths of moss. They can also stand up on their hind legs to reach for treats;
- leaves on trees.
It is not uncommon for deer to accidentally eat small rodents – chipmunks, mice, and so on. This does not harm herbivores in any way, and sometimes even replenishes the necessary amount of protein in the body.
Interesting fact: Similar eating habits associated with feeding on aquatic flora are also observed in the largest deer – moose .
Like horses, deer love salty and sweet things. Therefore, a large piece of salt is placed in the enclosure for deer, which they gradually lick off. Also, these animals love carrots and apples, which keepers in zoos spoil them with. Such a diet is sufficiently balanced for the animals to be healthy.
Character and lifestyle features
Deer of David are herd animals. Males and females live in one large herd, but during the mating season, the males move away from the females. In general, animals are non-aggressive, curious and not afraid of people because of constant close contact with them.
The peculiarity of these deer is also that they love to swim. Although now they do not live in their natural habitat, this feature has survived to this day and is transmitted genetically. Therefore, in the spacious enclosures of these deer, they always dig a large pond, where they add a lot of aquatic plants.
These deer can lie in the water for a long time, swim and even feed, completely immersing their heads in the water. No other deer show such love for water and swimming – most herbivores avoid this environment as they are not very good swimmers. The deer of David is an excellent swimmer – again the shape of his body and the structure of his hooves contribute to this.
In a herd of deer, as a rule, there is one large male leader, several females and a much smaller number of young males. In the wild, the leader expelled mature males from the herd – often with a fight, as the exiles opposed the decision of the leader. Several females could follow the young males expelled from the herd.
In conditions of captivity, the grown deer are simply relocated to other territories, adding several young females to them at once. This avoids fierce fights between males, and also allows weaker males to also leave offspring, which contributes to the restoration of the population.
Social structure and reproduction
The mating season is marked by real fights among males. They clash with their horns, push and squawk. In addition to horns, they use teeth and huge hooves as weapons – injuries are not uncommon in such a battle.
The leader male is regularly attacked by other males who also claim to mate during this period. Therefore, the deer has to defend its females in regular battles. During this period, the leader males hardly eat and lose a lot of weight, which makes them weaker and more likely to lose in fights. After the rutting period, the males eat heavily.
Deers of David are extremely infertile. Throughout her life, the female bears 2-3 cubs, after which she enters old age and is unable to give birth. At the same time, the rut occurs regularly, and the male annually covers almost all the females in his harem. Scientists believe that David's deer bred much better in the wild.
A female David's deer gestates for seven months. She always gives birth to one calf, which quickly rises to its feet and begins to walk. At first, he eats mother's milk, but very soon he switches to vegetable food.
Small deer form a kind of nursery. There, all the females of the herd look after them, although the deer feeds only from its mother. Even if the mother dies, the deer will not feed on other females, and they will not allow him to drink their milk, so only artificial feeding is possible.
David's deer's natural enemies
The deer of David had very few natural enemies while living in the wild. Their habitat made the deer invulnerable to many predators who did not like to enter the swampy area. Therefore, the deer of David are extremely trusting and calm animals, rarely fleeing from danger.
The main predator that could threaten the deer of David is the white tiger. This animal lives in China and occupies the top in the food chain of the fauna of this country. In addition, this tiger is very silent and cautious, which allowed him to hunt David's deer even in such unfavorable habitat conditions.
David's deer were rarely preyed upon by predators. Due to their carelessness, predators could hunt not only old, weak or young individuals, but also quite adult ones. The only way to escape from the paws of a formidable beast is to run deeper into the swamp, where the deer will not drown, and the tiger, most likely, may suffer.
Also, David's deer have various sound signals that notify their relatives of danger. They rarely use them, although they are very loud and can confuse a lurking predator.
Male David deer, like males of other deer species, are able to protect their herd from predators. They use horns and strong legs as a defense – they can even, like horses, kick the enemy.
Population and species status
The deer of David was almost completely destroyed by people, and only thanks to the efforts of specialists, its fragile population began to recover in zoos. Deer of David, living in the swamps of Central China, have disappeared due to uncontrolled hunting and massive deforestation.
Extinction began to occur as early as 1368. Then a small herd of David's deer was preserved only in the garden of the Imperial Ming Dynasty. They were also possible to hunt, but only in the imperial family. Other people were limited in hunting these animals, which was the first step to save the population.
French missionary Armand David came to China on a diplomatic matter and first encountered the deer of David (which were named after him later) . Only after many years of negotiations did he persuade the emperor to give permission for the withdrawal of individuals to Europe, but in France and Germany, the animals quickly died. But they took root in the English estate, which was also an important step towards restoring the population.
Two more events also contributed to the destruction of deer:
- Firstly, in 1895, the Yellow River flooded, which flooded many areas where David's deer lived. Many animals drowned, others fled and were unable to breed, and the rest were killed by hungry peasants;
- secondly, the remaining deer were destroyed during the uprising in 1900. Thus ended the life of the Chinese deer population.
They remained only in the estate in Britain. At the time of 1900, the number of individuals was about 15. It was from there that the deer were taken to their homeland – to China, where they continue to breed safely in the zoo.
Protection of the deer of David
Deer of David are listed in the International Red Book. They live only in captivity – in zoos around the world. The population manages to remain stable, although critically small.
China has a state program to distribute the David deer to protected areas. They are carefully released into nature reserves and regularly supervised, as predators, poachers and accidents can shake the fragile population of these animals.
At the moment, the deer population around the world has about two thousand animals – that's all descendants of those fifteen individuals from the British estate. In fact, release into the wild is not carried out, although animals are gradually trained to live separately from humans.
The Deer of David has an amazing story that shows us that even a species that is considered extinct can be preserved in single specimens and continue to exist. It remains to be hoped that David's deer will be able to return to the wild and find their niche in the fauna of China.