Ge­netic boost

Cross­breed­ing to help re­vi­tal­ize en­dan­gered deer

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By YANG WANLI yang­wanli@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The United King­dom will fur­ther help to re­vi­tal­ize the milu deer in China through in­tro­duc­ing dif­fer­ent species for cross­breed­ing with the sup­port of World Wide Fund for Na­ture.

On Fri­day, WWF signed a me­moran­dum of un­der­stand­ing with the Forestry Depart­ment of Hu­nan prov­ince to pro­mote cross­breed­ing of milu, known as Pere David Deer in the West, be­tween Europe and China.

The UK’s Princess Anne was in­vited as a dis­tin­guished guest.

Un­der the plan re­vealed by WWF, milu from Woburn Abbey Deer Park in the UK will travel to China for breed­ing younger gen­er­a­tions to avoid de­gen­er­a­tion of the gene pool.

As one of the largest con­ser­va­tion parks in Europe, Woburn Abbey Deer Park holds nine deer species, among which seven orig­i­nated from Asia, in­clud­ing the crit­i­cally en­dan­gered milu deer that at one point had been ex­tinct in the wild in China.

The 22 deer have re­turned to their na­tive habi­tat of Bei­jing as a gift from the Mar­quis of Tav­i­s­tock of Woburn Abbey.

Ac­cord­ing to WWF, 6,000 milu are now liv­ing world­wide, with about 5,000 in China and the rest in Europe. As many as 600 milu in China live in the wild in Hubei and Hu­nan prov­inces along the Yangtze River.

How­ever, due to decades of breed­ing with other deer, the group’s genes are suf­fer­ing from de­gen­er­a­tion.

“The sur­vival and growth of milu is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of a har­mo­nious re­la­tion­ship be­tween hu­mans and na­ture,” said Ren Wen­wei, wa­ter prac­tice leader of WWF China.

He said the cross­breed­ing pro­gram will fur­ther pro­mote in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion and boost cross-re­gional com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween re­search in­sti­tutes.

Hu­nan is now the world’s largest habi­tat of wild milu (about 100 to 120), which trav­eled from bor­der­ing Hubei prov­ince in 1998 due to a flood, ac­cord­ing to Deng San­long, head of the Hu­nan Forestry Depart­ment.

“We will launch sev­eral re­search pro­grams to fol­low the cross­breed­ing process and help them to go into the wild,” Deng said.

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