The antelopes, deer, and various
other hoofed animals like camels, giraffes, pigs, and horses include some of the rarest
and most endangered animals on earth. The Red Book of Endangered Species includes Grevy's
zebra and Hartmann's mountain zebra, Przewalski's horse, the Malayan tapir, babirusa,
vicugna, Formosan sika deer, addax, Barbary sheep, dama gazelle, lechwe, gaur, anoa,
Arabian and scimitar-homed oryx, and markhor all on the endangered list. They are all
present in zoos, and most of them are doing fairly well.
In many ways zoos are in a good position to serve the grazing animals.
For a start these animals are always likely to be at some risk in the wild because the
majority of them are edible, and many of then are prized by hunters who still like to
prove their prowess by gunning down a deer. Secondly, they are relatively easy for zoos to
accommodate. You don't need too many purpose-built concrete edifices to house a herd of
deer, just a spacious field, and some rudimentary stabling. Most (but not all) species
fare better in a herd, often the larger the better, and although there are veterinary
problems that many species encounter, in general the management problems that grazing
animals present tend to be issues like what to do with surplus males.
Zoos have a long and enviable
reputation for their keeping of hoofed animals. Pere David's deer were rescued from
extinction by the eleventh Duke of Bedford in his deer park at Wobum and have since been
sent back to a reserve in China by Wobum, Whipsnade
and Chester Zoos; scimitar-homed oryx were bred and
reintroduced into the wild by Marwell, Whipsnade
and Edinburgh Zoos; Phoenix Zoo in Arizona
spearheaded a magnificent project to breed and reintroduce Arabian oryx to the wild
in Jordan; and several zoos are now looking at the possibility of sending Prezwalski's
horses back to Mongolia. The record of cooperation is encouraging, and gives hope not only
for future reintroduction projects with hoofed mammals, but with every other group of
animals as well.
Zoos that specialise in grazing mammals will usually be spacious, and will keep large
and healthy herds. Look out for them.