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January 16, 2013

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Water deer coming to downtown parks

Shanghai residents will be able to see the endangered Chinese water deer in several more parks as the city plans to create more habitats for the animal.

Zoologists are now studying several spots including Century Park, Gongqing Forest Park, Gucun Park, Chongming's Dongtan area, and Sheshan Hill as sanctuaries for the deer.

Presently 227 Chinese water deer live in five locations, including Huaxia Park in the Pudong New Area and Xinbang Forest in Songjiang District, in the city's outskirts.

Five years ago, professors from East China Normal University brought 21 Chinese water deer from the Zhoushan islands off Zhejiang Province and raised them in Huaxia Park. They wanted to reintroduce the species in the city after it disappeared from Shanghai.

Chinese water deer are indigenous to the lower reaches of the Yangtze River and typically live in forests close to rivers. They are good swimmers and are very shy and alert.

However, overhunting and loss of habitat has put them on the verge of extinction.

"It is not easy to restore the population as some deer have been killed by poachers," said Chen Min, a core member of the program team and associate professor at the university.

The animal was frequently sighted in areas like Qingpu and Fengxian in the 1980s, but since 2000 they have rarely been spotted in the wild.


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