7 Persian fallow deer born in wildlife refuge in northern Iran

May 24, 2019

TEHRAN — Since the beginning of the current year (March 21), seven Persian fallow deer have been born in Dasht-e Naz wildlife refuge in northern city of Sari, Mazandaran province, Fars news agency reported on Friday.

The Persian fallow deer is a rare ruminant mammal. They are nearly extinct today, inhabiting only a small habitat in Khuzestan, southern Iran, two rather small protected areas in Mazandaran (northern Iran), an island in Lake Urmia in northwestern Iran, and in some parts of Iraq.

They were formerly found from Mesopotamia and Egypt to the Cyrenaica and Cyprus. Their preferred habitat is open woodland.

Habitat destruction of tamarisk, oak, and pistachio woodlands, in which the deer are found, has contributed to their population decline. Around 10% of their former range still exists for habitation. The Persian fallow deer is a grazing herbivore, with grass comprising 60% of its diet along with leaves and nuts.

Since the Persian fallow deer is a primary consumer in its ecosystem, it is negatively affected by the destruction of the habitat that supports the primary producers on which it feeds. The decline of the Persian fallow deer's habitat is also likely to have contributed to increased pressure from predators due to the loss of dense areas that can be used as a refuge from predators.

Persian Fallow deer is listed as endangered by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2015.

According to the IUCN the species has experienced numerous threats such as intensive hunting pressure, habitat destruction, natural predation and competition with livestock, and this led to its long decline and near extinction. Today in Iran, habitat destruction, competition with livestock, lack of freshwater and increasing levels of tick infestation are considered significant threats to the species, as well as the effects of small population size, such as isolation and inbreeding.

The overall population of the Persian fallow deer lingered around 250 individuals in 2005, and suffers from the effects of small population size, notably inbreeding. Genetic variation is a major concern in small populations because inbreeding can cause further loss of genetic variation, an effect known as inbreeding depression.

For Persian fallow deer, little genetic variation exists for the entire species because all the animals that currently exist were bred from a relatively small surviving group that was found living in the wild; genetic studies have shown that the individuals alive today are similar in 95% of their genes.

MQ/MG

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