Visitors to Zoo Berlin can enjoy the spring weather, while watching the Southern Pudu fawns roam their exhibit with the rest of their group. The fawns, a male and female, were born in the early spring and are still sporting the spotted coats of their youth.
“That Pudu live together in groups, at the Zoo, is quite unusual,” reveals Tobias Rahde, Curator for Deer, at Zoo Berlin. “In nature, more than two Pudu are never sighted together. The Pudu group in Zoo Berlin is apparently in unusual harmony.”
The Pudu is the world’s smallest deer. It consists of two subspecies of South American deer from the genus Pudu: the Northern Pudu (native to Columbia, Ecuador, and Peru) and the Southern Pudu (found in Chile and southwestern Argentina). They inhabit temperate rainforests, where the dense underbrush and bamboo thickets offer protection from predators.
The Pudu grows to a max height of 13 to 17 inches (32 to 44cm) at the shoulder and up to 33 inches (85cm) in length. They normally weigh up to 26 lbs (12 kg). Males have short, spiked antlers that are not forked. The antlers, which shed annually, can extend from 2.6 to 3 inches (6.5 to 7.5 cm) in length. Coat coloration varies with season, gender, and individual genes. The fur is long, stiff and reddish-brown to dark-brown in hue.
Pudus are solitary and do not, normally, interact with one another, unless during mating season. Easily frightened, they bark when in fear, and their fur bristles when angered.
Wild predators include: the Horned Owl, Andean Fox, Magellan Fox, Cougar, and other small cats. The Pudu is often slow-moving, but they are quite proficient climbers, jumpers, and sprinters when being pursued. Their lifespan, in the wild, ranges from 8 to 10 years.
Pudus are herbivorous and can survive without drinking water for long periods due to the high water content of the foliage they consume.
In their native habitat, their mating season occurs in the Southern Hemisphere’s autumn, from April to May. Gestation ranges from 202 to 223 days (about 7 months), with the average being 210 days. A single offspring or sometimes twins are born in austral spring, from November to January. Fawns have a reddish-born fur, and Southern Pudu fawns have white spots running the length of their backs. Young are weaned after 2 months and are considered fully-grown at 3 months, but may stay with their mothers for 8 to 12 months.
Both species of Pudus are classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List, due mainly to overhunting and habitat loss. Efforts to preserve the species are being taken before they become extinct. An international captive-breeding program for the Southern Pudu, led by Concepcion University, in Chile, has been started. Deer have been successfully bred in captivity and reintroduced into Nahuel Huapi National Park, in Argentina. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species has banned the international trading of Pudus.