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June 3, 2010

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Baby deer is hopeful sign at forest park

VISITORS at Binjiang Forest Park early this week spotted a water deer fawn, believed to be the first one born at the park.

Officials don't know exactly when the young deer was born because the park's water deer live in free-range areas far from people. But they estimate its birthday to be around May 1.

"Earlier, we found a female water deer was pregnant," said Han Yanmin, an official with the park. "And the expected date of birth was May 1."

Even though officials had sharpened their monitoring of pregnant deer, they still failed to find the cub because the park was so large and water deer are afraid of human beings.

Last November, 12 water deer were introduced from Zhoushan, Zhejiang Province, to roam the park. Officials said only one water deer wore a radio transmitter-distributor when freed.

A family spotted the fawn near the park's azalea garden. They didn't know what it was. They snuck up to it and shot several pictures, and sent the photos to the park authorities.

Officials warned visitors not to touch a water deer fawn if they see one, because its mother identifies it by its odor. Once a human's smell sticks to the fawn, the mother may fail to recognize it and abandon it, park officials explained.

"The birth of the cub proves that the water deer have become accustomed to the environment of the park," said Han. "We expect more cubs could be born in the future."

Water deer were frequently seen in Shanghai suburbs in late 19th century. But as the city grew, the animal disappeared by 1980s.

Beginning in 2007, experts from East China Normal University and the Shanghai Greenery and Public Sanitation Administrative Bureau started to redevelop the water deer population.


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