Keepers at Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire are hand rearing a unique species of deer known as the ‘vampire’ deer – due to their set of sharp canine teeth.
Chinese water deer are born weighing less than 1kg, less than a bag of flour, so 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.
“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
“All of this ensures we have a strong population at Whipsnade to safeguard the future of this species.”
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.