OKC Zoo Sad to Announce Death of Female Pere David’s Deer

On Thursday, June 20, one of the Oklahoma City Zoo’s female Pere David’s deer, Kate, 7, underwent a veterinary exam at the Zoo’s Joan Kirkpatrick Animal Hospital because she was showing signs of lameness and decreased mobility. During the exam, the veterinary team took several radiographs and learned that Kate had fractured her femur on the right side. Unfortunately, surgery was not option to repair the femur and the difficult decision was made to humanely euthanize Kate on June 20 at approximately 11:30 a.m.

Kate and her half-sister, Pippa, 7, came to the OKC Zoo in 2013 from The Wilds in Cumberland, Ohio. Kate was beloved by her caretakers and enjoyed spending time sunning herself and soaking in mud wallows located throughout her habitat. She also enjoyed eating a variety of wild grasses, leaves and browse. Pippa is doing well and will remain on public view in the Zoo’s Asian deer yard.

Of all the animals at the Zoo, Pere David’s is the only one with the disheartening distinction of being labelled “Extinct in the Wild” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). After years of habitat loss and over-hunting, there are no known free-ranging populations of Pere David’s left and the species only exists under human care. However, the situation is not as dire as the label makes it seem. Pere David’s deer have recovered from the brink of extinction and has become a classic example of how to rescue a highly threatened species, according to the IUCN.

Pere David’s deer were native to wetland regions of southern China and considered a national emblem and source of pride. The IUCN reports that a large herd was protected in the Emperor’s garden. In 1895, a surrounding wall was destroyed by a heavy flood and most of the deer escaped and were hunted. Only 20-30 animals remained in the garden until the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, when the garden was occupied by troops and the remaining deer were hunted. During the first decade of the 20th century, the Duke of Bedford in the United Kingdom gathered the last 18 Pere David’s deer in the world to form a breeding herd at the Woburn Abbey Estate, England.

The species is named for French missionary Pere (Father in French) Armand David, who was among the first Westerners to study the species and bring it to the attention of European audiences in the 1860s.

-Tyler Boyd, OKC Zoo curator of carnivores and hoofstock


Photo: Andrea Johnson

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