Zookeepers at Whipsnade get their fangs into hand rearing these ‘vampire’ deer

The adorable fawns were born weighing less than a bag of flour

Tuesday, 14th July 2020, 1:19 pm
Updated Tuesday, 14th July 2020, 1:50 pm

Zookeepers at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo are hand rearing a unique species of deer known as the ‘vampire’ deer - due to their set of sharp canine teeth.

And as the adorable Chinese water deer are born weighing less than 1kg - less than a bag of flour - keepers at the UK’s largest zoo are taking steps to protect the tiny fawns from prey by caring for them around the clock.

Zookeeper Gracie Gee said: “The Chinese water deer fawns are a very welcome new arrival to Whipsnade and an important species for us to care for as the population in the wild is vulnerable and continuing to decline.

Chinese water deer fawn at ZSL Whipsande Zoo (c) ZSL

“They are so small when they are born making them extremely vulnerable to predators, large birds could easily scoop them up, so we are hand-rearing the fawns in a sheltered space until they are big enough to move to their new enclosure at Whipsnade.”

Just 12cm tall at birth, the seven fawns, named Bao, Yang, Yin Mei, Chen, Lu and Zhi, are being bottle fed by zookeepers every six hours.

Unlike some other deer species, the young males will not grow antlers but begin to develop a unique set of sharp canine teeth when they are about six months old – known as fangs or tusks.

Gracie added: “This species of deer is certainly unique, they have soft round ears which gives them a teddy bear-like appearance and the males have sharp ‘fangs’ or tusks which can grow up to 5m long – the males can even move these fangs forward and backwards which they use to defend their territory – while their back legs are incredibly strong, and longer than their front legs, to give them a powerful leap.

Chinese water deer fawn at ZSL Whipsande Zoo (c) ZSL

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo reopened to the public on June 15 after an unprecedented three months of closure due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Chinese water deer fawn at ZSL Whipsande Zoo (c) ZSL
Chinese water deer fawn at ZSL Whipsande Zoo (c) ZSL