Tierpark Animal News
Tierpark as a Noah’s Arc
Zoos around the world have managed to save many animals from extinction thanks to effective international collaboration. Deer species Père David’s deer and the Vietnamese sika both became extinct in the wild as a result of human activity; today, they only survive in the care of humans. Tierpark Berlin is one of the places these animals can be admired – and now it has added the critically endangered Bawean deer to its numbers. Soon, zoos may be the only places where these animals exist. It is estimated that fewer than 250 adult Bawean deer currently live in their natural habitat, the Indonesian island of Bawean.
This June, three of the rare deer came to Berlin from Poznań Zoo. And this weekend, they could be seen in their outdoor enclosure for the first time. The new arrivals are hugely significant: “Berlin and Poznań are the only places outside Asia to house this deer species,” says Zoo and Tierpark Director Dr Andreas Knieriem. “Other than in Germany and Poland, the deer are only found in Malaysia and in their native Indonesian habitat.”
The Tierpark curators have a clear objective in mind for their new deer. In cooperation with the zoos in Poznań and Chester, they hope to build up a stable genetic reservoir outside Asia. “Endemic” species such as Bawean deer are particularly at risk because they inhabit only a single, very small area. If that area is destroyed as a result of a natural disaster, war or excessive agriculture, the entire population is lost. “That’s why it’s so important to establish protected ‘reserves’ in various places – so that in the worst-case scenario we can provide sufficient offspring for future reintroduction measures,” says Christian Kern, mammal curator at Tierpark Berlin. “That makes us a kind of modern-day Noah’s Arc.” Kern goes on to explain that when the threat of extinction becomes particularly acute, the IUCN recommends establishing an ex situ population as security. “This recommendation is in place for the Bawean deer, and we always consider IUCN recommendations when selecting our animal species.”
Zoologists at Tierpark Berlin are also involved in international expert groups working to protect threatened deer species, including IUCN’s Deer Specialist Group and EAZA’s Taxon Advisory Group. In cooperation with species protection experts at Chester Zoo, they are planning to visit the island of Bawean to investigate how they might prevent the Bawean deer from becoming extinct. Tierpark Berlin is currently home to 18 different deer species, 65 percent of which are on IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species. The genetic reservoirs being fostered at Tierpark Berlin are thus making an important contribution to deer conservation.