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From the Edge of Extinction: The Astonishing Revival of China’s Enigmatic Milu Deer

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Milu deer
© South China Morning Post YouTube

In the late 19th century, the Milu deer, also known as Pere Davids deer, a unique species native to the wetlands of China, teetered on the brink of extinction. Hunted relentlessly for their antlers and meat, their population dwindled, casting a shadow over their existence.

A British Aristocrat’s Intervention

In 1890, a glimmer of hope emerged when British aristocrat Herbrand Russell, the 11th Duke of Bedford, intervened. He acquired the last 18 Milu deer on Earth, offering them sanctuary at his Woburn Abbey estate in the United Kingdom.

Breeding Success

Under the Duke’s care, the deer not only survived but thrived. By the end of World War II, the herd had expanded to 250, a testament to the Duke’s successful breeding program and the resilience of the Milu deer.

The Return Home

In 1985, a significant turn of events marked the beginning of the Milu deer’s journey home. The Duke’s great-grandson donated 38 deer to China, laying the foundation for extensive conservation efforts in their native land.

YouTube video
© South China Morning Post YouTube

Conservation Triumph

Today, over 9000 Milu deer roam freely in China’s nature reserves and wilderness, a testament to successful international conservation collaboration. Each deer traces its lineage back to the Duke’s herd, a reminder of the species’ remarkable journey from the brink of extinction.

A Symbol of Hope

The resurgence of the Milu deer stands as a beacon of hope and a reminder of the power of concerted conservation efforts. It underscores the potential for other endangered species to survive, thrive, and reclaim their place in the natural world.

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Latest posts by Cayla de Souza, M.Sc. Ocean Sciences & Marine Biology (see all)

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