Norfolk Biodiversity

And if you ever saw him…

We all know Rudolf, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen – well some of us may struggle a little past Dancer! They make up the very core of all things Christmas and no doubt by January 1st 2015 some may even be glad to see the back of them again!

We know those reindeer live in Lapland but what do we actually know of the deer that reside here in our very own Norfolk?

Step forward the slightly unusual Chinese Water Deer – unusual in the sense that despite being classed as an invasive species, they’ve been roaming free in the wild for decades.

And if that didn’t make them special enough, the Chinese Water Deer have no antlers.

None whatsoever.

What do they have?

Rudolf has his nose; the Chinese Water Deer have tusks.

Chinese Water Deer close up (Credited to

These tusks are used both defensively and offensively during the rutting season (which just happens to be Christmas) as they will fight for territory as well as mates.

Unlike some other non-native species that have been introduced here in the UK, they are thought to have little negative impact on local biodiversity.

Interestingly, a common complaint about deer is the damage done through grazing – Chinese Water Deer?

Not a single known complaint.

So where do the Chinese Water Deer come from? (Go on, guess)

Well, in 1896 known collector of deer the Duke of Bedford brought them to his Woburn Abbey Estate in Bedfordshire all the way from China, where they were most likely to be found along the Yangtze River.



From then on, in 1929 a small herd of Chinese Water Deer were given to Whipsnade Park (known to us in the modern day as Whipsnade zoo) while others escaped into the wild around 1945 where generations of breeding has seen an increase in numbers across the UK.


Today in 2014 10% of the global population of Chinese Water Deer live here in the UK meaning that that there are more living here than there are remaining in their native China.

This of course places a greater importance on the protection of the animal and had led to the establishment of the Chinese Water Deer Foundation to help protect the rare creature.

What’s in a name?

The Chinese Water Deer like to set up shop around river beds, damp woodland and riverbanks – so of course they love it here along the fens of East Anglia!

The Chinese Water Deer are not city dwellers, as isolate creatures they steer away from the busy life of the suburbs and in doing so, they can be very difficult to locate –but, with Norfolk’s long country roads there is always the risk of road collisions.

Not simply with the Chinese Water Deer, but all deer that populate the Norfolk area.

This is an issue recognised by The Deer Initiative which is supported by the Norfolk Constabulary.

They are calling on you and the Norfolk community to help report and reduce the frequency of deer collisions

So with Christmas just around the corner, listen out for those sleigh bells, leave a carrot out on Christmas Eve and spare a thought for the very special Chinese Water Deer!


Come on ‘deer’, let’s go for a swim (Credited to


To all readers, have a very Merry Christmas!



About Dale Benton

Football fan. Cyclist. Slight geek. Communications at Norfolk County Council. Yorkshire.

3 comments on “And if you ever saw him…

  1. Pingback: A Christmas Tree-t | Norfolk Biodiversity

  2. spike
    December 19, 2014

    This presents an interesting question – what would happen if a critically endangered species elsewhere became an established invasive species in the UK? Would we still have a duty to remove it if it was damaging native biodiversity?


    • Norfolk Biodiversity
      December 19, 2014

      That is a really interesting question that doesn’t have a straightforward answer. Some of the issues surrounding this debate are discussed here, in a study on Chinese wattle-necked softshell turtles which looked into answering this question:

      In the case of Chinese Water Deer, we don’t have a ‘duty to remove’ them at the moment, and they are not commonly hunted in the way Muntjac and other introduced deer are. However, the rapid growth in the population of the species is causing alarm. Most likely a balanced approach is needed, where we try to keep them away from the areas they can cause the most harm, whilst keeping in mind that they are increasingly rare in their native range. We should also encourage the Chinese to put more effective measures in place for ‘in situ’ conservation.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Posts by Date

Contact Us

%d bloggers like this: