A husband and wife were looking out over the Bristol Zoo grounds when they came across a tiny creature that was about eight inches tall, with round, dark eyes, and delicate shell-pink pointy ears.
“Is that a mouse dear?” asked the wife.
“No,” replied the husband, “it is a mouse deer.”
While this conversation cannot be reported literally, it could well have taken place because mother mouse deer Brienne and proud mother mouse deer Jorah welcomed a new addition to their family just over a month ago.
Proving the adage that good things come in small packages, the bouncing baby Malayan mouse deer fawn is the height of a standard pencil.
It is only the second of its kind to be born at Bristol Zoo in the past 10 years. (His predecessor, a female named Missandei, was sent to the Ouwehands Zoo in the Netherlands to participate in the breeding program there.)
Native to Southeast Asia, mouse deer, also known as chevrotains, are the smallest hoofed mammals in the world. While tiny (fully grown, a minor Malayan mouse deer will weigh only about three pounds), Bambis are classified as even-toed ungulates, putting them in the same category as pigs, sheep, giraffes, camels, and hippos. .
Brienne and Jorah’s offspring remain unnamed today, as their gender has yet to be determined. Bristol Zoo’s lead mammal keeper, Paige Bwye, explains that because mouse deer are so small and shy, it’s difficult to make the call.
According to Tim Rowlands, leader of the Hoofstock team at Marwell Zoo in Hampshire, the little family’s hiding behavior is not unusual. “All species of deer will hide their young until they are older, so they will just come out to feed and then hide again,” he told the BBC.
Rowlands speaks from experience. Earlier this year, parents Gus and Gwen were given to parents Gus and Gwen in Marwell’s Tropical House Habitat.
“There are very few zoos that care for any of the mouse deer species, as they are so small, very secretive and nocturnal, so any child born is great news for the conservation breeding program.” Rowlands said. “It is vitally important that we work to ensure that these wonderful animals do not disappear forever.”
Bwye reports that Mama B. and ‘Baby Doe’ are thriving. “Brienne is being a fantastic new mom and has been very attentive to her baby,” Bwye scored. “He’s doing very well … and he’s recently started discovering new flavors, like sweet potato.”
And what could be more “fantastic” than that?
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