Rare Deer Born at the National Zoo

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A rare tufted deer was born at the National Zoo's Conservation and Research Center in Virginia on July 16. The deer was the fourth species to give birth in one week, joining the clouded leopards, Przewalski horses and red pandas in welcoming new members to the Zoo family.

Tufted deer, called that for the tuft of hair on their forehead, are native to the forests of southern China. They are usually found within giant panda reserves. The animal is difficult to trace in the wild because of its elusive habits—it travels alone, or with a single mate, in the late evening or at dusk. But wildlife experts say that some 100,000 are killed annually by local hunters. The IUCN lists the species as near threatened; and even captive animals are rare with fewer than 110 living in U.S. zoos.

This is the 11th tufted deer baby to be born at the Smithsonian's National Zoo since 1994, when the first arrived. Unlike North American white-tailed deer, tufted deer only grow to be about 1.5 feet tall, about the height of a medium-sized dog.

The keepers say that, as in the wild, the mother will raise her fawn alone, although the father usually stays with the pregnant mother until she gives birth. This tufted deer family will not be on public display.

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