Crossbreeding to help revitalize endangered deer
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.