Chester Zoo has welcomed a rare baby Southern pudu – one of the world’s smallest species of deer.
The tiny male fawn, named by his keepers as Paolo, weighed less than a bag of sugar (900g) at birth and stood at little over six inches tall – similar in size to a guinea pig. Small mammal experts at the zoo say he will only grow to around 18 inches (1.5ft) tall when fully developed.
Born to parents Serena and Oden, the baby deer is part of an international conservation breeding programme working to ensure a genetically viable insurance population in zoos to help with the long-term protection of the species.
Southern pudus are native to rainforest areas in southern Chile and south-western Argentina where they are listed as near-threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), meaning the species could face an uncertain future.
Conservationists believe the number of pudus in the wild has declined rapidly in recent decades, largely due to loss of its rainforest habitat and illegal poaching.
Caroline Wright, a pudu keeper at the zoo, said, “Pudus are the smallest deer in the world – and so you can just imagine how tiny a new born is. In fact, being similar in size to a guinea pig, Paolo [the zoo’s new arrival] makes even Bambi look huge!
“But while they may only be tiny and have little legs, they are excellent sprinters. And what they lack in size they make up for in strategy – running in zigzag patterns to help them fend off the interest of less nimble predators.
“Pudu fawns have distinctive flecks of white fur on their backs to help with their camouflage. These fade as they get older but Paolo, at the young age he is, is very much sporting these for the time being. We’re ever so pleased with his development so far and hopefully he’ll not only help us to put a spotlight on these wonderful animals, but also go on to play his own part in the conservation breeding programme to protect the species.”