Going wild: 10 Chinese water deer prepare for final release

Yang Yang
Ten Chinese water deer in Songjiang have been introduced to a wildlife training base to prepare them for their final release into the wild.
Yang Yang

Ten Chinese water deer in Songjiang have been introduced to a wildlife training base to prepare them for their final release into the wild, according to the Yexie Chinese Water Deer Breeding Center, the largest of its kind in Shanghai.

The animals used to be a widespread local species in the 1880s. Due to a reduction in their habitat and excessive hunting, they disappeared from Shanghai at the beginning of the 20th century.

In 2006, Shanghai initiated a species restoration project and reintroduced key protected wild animals, including Chinese water deer, Yangtze alligators and badgers, locally in the hope of increasing the city’s biodiversity.

The deer-breeding center is situated in a forest near the headstream of Shanghai’s Huangpu River, the major habitat for Chinese water deer. The first batch of 40 deer was introduced in 2009 and the center now has more than 80 deer. At its peak, numbers rose to around 200.

“The ‘advance forces’ of the 10 Chinese water deer have been selected according to their sex ratio,” said Cai Feng, deputy chief of the Songjiang Forestry Station.

To pave the way for the final release, staff at the wildlife training base have installed monitoring equipment and attached tracking collars to the deer. This will allow them to obtain round-the-clock data about the deer’s living conditions and their behavioral characteristics in order to judge the best time for their final release.

The 20-hectare wildlife training base in the south of the breeding center simulates the natural living environment of the deer.

“We’ve spent a very long time in restoring the population of the Chinese water deer in Shanghai. We might spend an even longer time in returning them back to the wild. We won’t always be confining them inside a breeding center with fences,” said Cai.

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