A study on conservation, breeding and management of brow antlered deer in captivity is being undertaken at the Delhi zoo, which is home to the maximum number of the animal among zoological parks in the country.
Pratyansha Singh, a PhD student, who is conducting the study on the endangered deer species, said the National Zoological Park was the best research field as it houses around 50 brow antlered deer and runs a successful breeding programme.
"The study looks at the behaviour, population, health and food habits of brow antlered deer in captive conservation. Delhi zoo serves as the apt place of research as the park aims at conservation, education and research apart from recreation," she told PTI.
Riyaz Khan, zoo curator, said the first pair of the "rare, endemic and endangered" deer species was introduced in the zoo in 1962 by the country's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
"Thanks to a successful breeding programme, Delhi zoo has distributed many pairs of brow antlered deer to zoos in Ahmedabad, Kanpur, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Junagadh and Mysore," he said.
The 26-year-old PhD student from University School of Environment Management, IP University said the deer species exhibits "vigilant behaviour" when they are surrounded by visitors.
"The behavioural pattern of animals changes when they are taken out of their natural habitat. Brow antlered deer are extremely shy animals. They become alert and vigilant when surrounded by onlookers," she said.
Talking about the mortality rate among the deer, also Manipur's state animal, Singh said stress is a major factor that contributes to their death.
"These animals also undergo a lot of stress. Tests are done to check the level of glucocorticoid hormones in the animals to gauge the stress level. Fighting among the dominant brow antlered male deer to get the attention of their mating partners, can also lead to fatal injuries. Apart from these, still birth and age factor also contribute to their death," she said.
The zoo curator said, in order to prevent infighting
among the deer, the dominant ones are kept separately and multiple food stations have been created.
"We keep the dominant males separately. There are multiple feeding stations so that the dominant ones do not attack the meek for food. This phenomenon is also called prevention of 'monopoly of food'," he said.
Singh, who is undertaking the study under the guidance of Professor Amarjeet Kaur, said the brow antlered deer at the zoo here have adapted to their new surroundings and hopefully their numbers will increase in the future.
"It is critical to conserve and protect brow antlered deer as their number is dwindling. Delhi zoo has adopted many measures to conserve these animals, from providing organised diet to making seasonal arrangements," she said.
The Delhi zoo is part of the conservation breeding programmes of the Central Zoo Authority for the Royal Bengal tiger, Indian rhinoceros, swamp deer, Asiatic lion, brow antlered deer and red jungle fowl.