The Deer Guardian of Yun-meng Lakes
“There is a big lake in the State of Chu, where rhinoceros and deer can be seen everywhere.” A saying from Mozi went like this. ( Mozi , the book named after the great Chinese philosopher Mozi.)
Located in Shishou City, Hubei Province, China, the Swan Island of Yangtze River was a part of the ancient Yun- meng Lakes. It had been a deer habitat since ancient times and was now a reserve land for the Chinese milu deer. With more than a thousand deer, this reserve boasted the largest wild milu deer population in China— and even in the world.
200 years ago, milu deer were practically extinct in China, except for the 18 deer kept in the Nanhaizi Royal Hunting Park in Beijing. When the Eight- Power Allied Forces occupied Beijing, these 18 deer disappeared in the war. Around 1900, the British Duke of Bedford purchased 18 milu deer from some European zoos and kept them at his estate.
In the 1990s, the milu deer was introduced back to China from the United Kingdom and have resided and thrived on Swan Island ever since. “This is our elf on the side of Yun-meng Lakes.” Li Pengfei said. Words are not enough to describe the beauty of these animals.
Now in his sixties, Li Pengfei has been working with milu deer for more than 20 years. He was once a local secondary school teacher, with a comfortable working environment and a decent salary. However, he eventually gave up his teaching job and worked in the reserve lands, which are geographically remote, with inconvenient commutes and harsh living conditions.
In 1995, an experiment was
conducted concerning restocking the area with deer. Since there was no precedent, Li Pengfei had been tracking down the deer in the wild for many years in order to learn more about their living habits and regular activities.
In the summer of 1998, a disastrous flood broke out in the Yangtze River Valley, turning the reserve on the old watercourse of the river into a big swamp. “Jiaojiao,” a one-week-old female baby deer, was washed away from its mother by a torrent. Li Pengfei, who was then responsible for animal protection, fortunately took her in.
After that, Li Pengfei began to feed this baby deer ten times a day, and bravely simulated a mother deer’s hygienic behaviors by personally scrubbing Jiaojiao’s anus. From then on, Jiaojiao was almost inseparable from him. Whenever she heard Li Pengfei’s footsteps, she scampered over happily.
When Jiaojiao turned one year old, Li Pengfei released her into her wild deer herd with tears in his eyes. In the first few months, when he went to the place, Jiaojiao would still run to him. Nowadays she is no different from other wild deer—Li Pengfei could no longer distinguish her from the others.
The story of Li Pengfei and Jiaojiao impressed many people. Wuhan TV Station made a children’s TV program named
GoingHome , with Jiaojiao as the leading hero. The TV program won a “Best Actor Award” and a “World Peace Prize” in an international film competition in Italy.
Today, the number of milu deer has increased from 94 when it was first brought back to China to more than 1,000. It has become a model for successful reintroduction of species in China.
Milu deer running happily in the nature reserve 麋鹿在保护区欢快奔跑
The Swan Island Deer Nature Reserve 天鹅洲麋鹿保护区