The preservation of the David's deer species, once extinct in its native China, is an arduous task, an expert said in Nanjing on Friday.
Two decades after returning to their homeland, the population of David's deer -- known as Milu deer to Chinese -- has grown to over 2,000 in China, according to Ding Yuhua, head of the Dafeng State Milu Nature Reserve in Dafeng city in east China's Jiangsu Province.
"Milu deer have grown into a population of 3,000 worldwide. They are bred in 208 farms located in more than 20 countries all over the world," Ding said.
"But if an infectious disease broke out or their habitat came under pressure from human activity, the population would prove to be too small," Ding said.
Native to China, Milu deer are nicknamed "none of the four" because of their striking appearance -- a camel's neck, a donkey's tail, cow-like hooves and a stag's horn.
The species was named Pere David's deer after Pere David, a Basque missionary, who became the first Westerner to introduce the strange beast to Europe in the late 19th century.
Milu became extinct in their native China in the 1800s due to flooding, hunting and war. In 1985, 22 specimens were brought back to China from the world's last existing herd at the Duke of Bedford's estate in Bedfordshire, England.
The Dafeng State Milu Nature Reserve has since seen its population of 39 deer grow to 1007 animals today including 62 living in the wild.
Besides the nature reserve in Jiangsu, Milu deer are also raised in other parts of China, including Beijing, Tian'ezhou Milu National Nature Reserve in Hubei, and Henan's Yuanyang County.
In 1998 China began reintroducing the endangered species to the wild.
(Xinhua News Agency October 28, 2006)