2 elk at Chongming Island habitat are pregnant to reflect city's ecological legacy
Shanghai has strived to promote wildlife habitats for a decade to improve ecology, wildlife dispersion and land usage.
So far, 21 habitats have been created in Minhang, Songjiang, Chongming, Baoshan, Qingpu, Fengxian, Jiading, Jinshan and the Pudong New Area to make homes for wildlife.
The goal is to improve the city's biodiversity and the harmonious coexistence of humans and nature by rebuilding ecosystems. It will leave the city with a valuable ecological heritage.
Let's take you on a tour of these ecological wilderness.
Two elk at the first elk habitat in Shanghai in Xincun Village on Chongming Island are pregnant and expected to give birth in April.
The habitat was created in April 2021. It was primarily farmland and forest, and spans approximately 210,000 square meters.
It is home to four elk – one male and three females. They were moved from the Dafeng Elk National Natural Reserve in Yancheng, Jiangsu Province, to Shanghai.
According to the Shanghai Greenery and Public Sanitation Bureau, the objective is to restore the elk population and the island's biological richness, as well as undertake studies on their return to the wild.
"They were all just over two years old when they arrived, and their estrus had been observed the previous year," said keeper Fang Qunan.
"We watch them day and night to make sure they deliver safely," Fang added.
"We discovered that the male elk takes good care of the pregnant females and allows them to eat first," said Fang. "The recipe has been adjusted, and lighter food is being delivered."
An exclusive area for elk calves has been created.
"It is the first time for both the elk mothers and us to handle the pregnancy, so, we are careful about it," said Zhan Li, who is in charge of the habitat.
Experts from Shanghai Zoo, Shanghai Forestry Station, and Shanghai Natural History Museum periodically examine the habitat, and they will be on-site during the delivery of the newborns.
According to experts, it is an encouraging start for wildlife protection in Shanghai.
Since 2013, Shanghai has been running a program on fostering wildlife habitat. Li Zirong, deputy director of the Shanghai Forestry Station, said that the places that have been chosen for the program have good ecological conditions and a lot of wildlife species.
They are home to frogs, birds, river deer and badgers. Only Xincun Village is home to elk.
"It is quite encouraging that the number of elk will double in the next two years, given the habitat is only two years old," said Li.
Elk were known as sibuxiang in ancient China, which means they had the features of four different animals but didn't look exactly like any of them – the face of a horse, the antlers of a deer, the neck of a camel, and the tail of a donkey.
The middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River were their habitat, and Shanghai was one of the places where they became extinct.
They mainly lived in the plains and marshes of the Yangtze and Yellow rivers.
Elk became extinct in the wild due to shrinking habitat and hunting.
The only elk in China were at the royal hunting grounds in Beijing in the late 19th century. Some of them were transported to Europe.
In a joint project with the United Kingdom, 77 elk were reintroduced to China in 1985 and 1986.
By the end of 2020, China had over 8,000 elk, with 2,855 of them roaming in the wild.
The elk population in Shanghai will grow as they adapt to their new environment, according to the Shanghai Greenery and Public Sanitation Bureau.
"Shanghai was one of the places in China where wildlife was last seen, therefore, reintroducing them into the city is of great significance," said Li. "If the population increases, it will be a valuable ecological legacy for the city."
The habitat comprises five areas, including a living area and one for education.
It will be open to the public so that visitors can learn about elk and observe how they live.