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.
What do they have?
Rudolf has his nose; the Chinese Water Deer have tusks.
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.
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!
To all readers, have a very Merry Christmas!