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Southern pudu

Scientific name: Pudu pudaPudu family - Photo taken by Peter Budd

Country: Chile, Argentina

Continent: South America

Diet: Leaves - folivore, fruits - frugivore, grass - graminivore

Food & feeding: Herbivore

Habitats: Temperate rainforest

Conservation status: Vulnerable

Relatives: Red deer, Irish elk

Description: The world's smallest true deer, standing only 38 centimetres high at the shoulder and weighing around 9-15 kgs. The males have simple spiked antlers 7-10 cms long, which are shed annually. There is some coat colour variation, from reddish to dark brown, lighter at the sides and lower legs. The fawns are spotted with white spots, probably for camouflage

Lifestyle: The pudu is very secretive and little is known about it in the wild. It prefers to live in thick, temperate rainforest. To reach higher foliage, it will hold down saplings with its front legs until the branches break or until it can reach the leaves. Sometimes is will use dead branches and logs to stand on to gain extra height. It will also peel off bark from young trees with its teeth and, in the case of males, with their antlers as well. They seem to be active day and night, with most activity in morning, evening and late afternoon.

Family & friends: Pudus are solitary animals, navigating through a series of well trodden paths that criss cross their home range. Their home ranges are usually about 16-25 hectares. They come together to mate in the southern summer and give birth seven months later.

Keeping in touch: All deer have pre-orbital (facial) glands and in the pudu these are very large. They are used for scent communication. Large piles of dung can be found near their paths and resting places. These may also be used for territorial marking.

Growing up: Females give birth to a single fawn weighing approximately 1 kg which is weaned at about two months. Females are sexually mature at six months and males at 8 to 12 months. Pudus can live for about 8-10 years.

The Pudu is the smallest living deer, with antlers of only 10 cm. The largest deer to have walked the earth was the Irish Elk. This animal had antlers that stretched over three metres from one side to the other, that's 33 times the size of the diminutive pudu. Irish elk became extinct around 15,000 years ago.

Conservation news: Pudu are classified as a vulnerable species. Their numbers have declined due to their primary temperate rainforest habitat being destroyed and cleared for cattle ranching and other human developments.
Bristol Zoo Gardens is part of an international captive breeding programme for the species.