By Mike Fossano
Visitors at the Detroit Zoo will be greeted by a new baby animal – a female Chilean pudu, the smallest species of deer. Born September 7, the fawn is the fourth pudu to be born at the Zoo since the species’ introduction in 2008.
The parents, 5-year-old Carol and 6-year-old T. Roy, were paired at the recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) for pudus. The SSP is a cooperative management plan to ensure genetically healthy, diverse and self-sustaining populations of threatened and endangered species. There are presently only 28 pudus in 12 AZA institutions.
“This fawn is a significant contribution to a small zoo population of this unique and little-studied Andean deer,” said Detroit Zoological Society Curator of Mammals Robert Lessnau. “She is doing very well and, weather permitting, can been seen daily in the pudu habitat with her parents.”
The pudus can be found near the giant anteaters and bush dogs, two other South American mammals.
The Chilean, or southern, pudu (Pudu puda) can reach a height of 18 inches at the shoulder and weigh up to 25 pounds at maturity. The tiny species of deer has reddish-brown fur and diminutive features, including rounded ears, small black eyes and short legs. The male is distinguished by a pair of short spiked antlers, which are shed annually in July.
Found in the temperate rainforests of southern Chile and Argentina, the pudu is a solitary animal that is mostly active during the early morning, late afternoon and evening hours. It feeds on leaves, twigs, bark, buds, fruit and seeds in its natural habitat.