Individual study: Trial release of Père David’s deer Elaphurus davidianus in the Dafeng Reserve, Jiangsu, China
Hu H. & Zhigang J. (2002) Trial release of Père David's deer Elaphurus davidianus in the Dafeng Reserve, China. Oryx, 36, 196-199
The ultimate goal of captive breeding is to reintroduce the captive-bred animals into wild habitats to either restore or reinforce the wild population. Père David's deer Elaphurus davidianus, endemic to China, became extinct in the wild around 1900. Because a captive population of 39 Père David's deer in Dafeng Reserve, eastern China, showed signs of density-dependent growth, relocation to unfenced sites was required. Therefore a trial release of a seven deer was undertaken as a prelude to further release.
Seven Père David's deer (a stag, two hinds and four sub-adults) were initially transported to and held in enclosures within Dafeng Reserve, Jiangsu in coastal easternn China. They were subsequently released into an unfenced area of the reserve and observed for at least two hours a day from 7 November 1998 until 3 April 1999.
Behavioural observations recorded included walking, foraging, resting, barking, fighting and aggression between adults and sub-adults, and their physical status. Additionally, vigilance distance and the distance at which deer start to appear alert were measured.
All of the released deer were alive at the end of the observation period. The deer exhibited a greater range of behaviour, especially social behaviour, and their body condition improved, overtime.
Although the release was carried out in an area populated by people, it was hoped that the deer would stay within the core coastal habitat of the reserve, where there is no human activity. However, they did not do so, moving out into and foraging within the surrounding farmland. To prevent conflicts between the needs of the deer and those of farmers, in the future a habitat with either a natural or artificial boundary must be found.
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