By Faranak Bakhtiari

Is reproduction a solution to Persian fallow deer conservation?

January 24, 2021 - 18:28

TEHRAN – Efforts are being made to protect endangered species of Persian fallow deer which is reported to remain a population of 400-500 across the country, but is this really save the animals from extinction?

The main habitat of fallow deer in the country includes western and southwestern areas, but the declining trend in the number of this valuable species in the 1330s (falling on 1951- 1961) led to measures to save them since the late decade.

For the past 60 years, the species are inhabiting protected areas, and the most important center for the reproduction of fallow deer is the semi-natural breeding site of Dasht-e Naz in the city of Sari, where in the last two years the population of the species has grown significantly.

Another habitat for the reproduction of the valuable species is the Ashk Island of Lake Urmia, which has become a safe place to protect the species from extinction due to the difficult access of illegal poachers.

Persian fallow deer population in the Dasht-e Naz site has increased by about 60 percent, amounting to 53, in less than two years.

Over the years, 8 areas in different provinces were considered for the breeding of this species, as well as four private breeding centers and zoos, where fallow deer were kept, but some of them did not appear successful and closed down, Shahaboddin Montazemi, deputy head of the Department of Environment (DOE), said.

Iran's Environment and Wildlife Observatory recently announced that out of 320 fallow deer counted in 2008, only 30 remain in Ashk Island today, and this subspecies is on the verge of extinction.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has long classified the Persian fallow deer as endangered in 1996, vulnerable in 2006, and endangered in 2010. A situation that has not changed much over the years.

Conservation or reproduction?

Farshad Eskandari, biodiversity expert said that so far, the programs implemented for the fallow deer have not been conservation programs, but only reproduction of this species has been considered.

“Conservation is when we return the species to its original habitat after reproduction, and in fact, revival has not been considered in Iran so far,” he said.

To reintroduce species to a natural habitat, three things must be considered including water, food, and opposing forces that may endanger species life. For example, in Ashk Island, in addition to the drying up of Lake Urmia, we encountered a large population of carnivorous animals, which affected the life of this species. So that, it is necessary to first eliminate the extinction factors and then introduce the species, he further explained.

All fallow deer in Iran today are inhabiting in semi-captive habitats, while this species has a high degree of flexibility and can live in different regions as it was in the past, he noted.

Research has not been conducted on fallow deer or many other animals in the country, because wildlife studies are expensive and that is why research is scarce, he stated, adding, but now monitoring is of great importance, as we must determine that why the species population do not increase despite being in captivity.

As a result, lack of accurate information and constant monitoring are among the reasons that put this species at greater risk, he lamented.

According to Eskandari, the extinction of Persian fallow deer has had various reasons over the past years. For example, on Ashk island, Lake Urmia’s drought, lack of vegetation, and the presence of carnivores are the main causes of extinction.


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