The mouse deer breeding programme taken up by the Nehru Zoological Park is turning out to be a successful one. A year-and-a-half after it was launched with eight mouse deer, the zoo park's conservation breeding centre now boasts of 30 mouse deer in its collection. The breeding was being undertaken prior to the programme but it gained momentum in March 2011 when a customized enclosure was created with funding from Central Zoo Authority (CZA) for conservation of the endangered species.
Now, the 360-acre zoo park is planning to expand the existing breeding facility by setting up a second enclosure that can house 50 mouse deer. The centre's estimated cost is being pegged at Rs 50 lakh. Zoo officials said that the centre would be fully equipped with not just the CCTVs for monitoring but a lot of plantations, small huts, sprinkler systems, and other amenities.
Once the population of these nocturnal animals crosses from the existing 30 to 50, the authorities here plan to release some of them into the wild. This is likely to happen in a year or two. "We will select areas where there was some mouse deer population earlier but has now disappeared. They will be released with transponders so that their movements can be tracked," said A Shankaran, curator, zoo park.
Mouse deer are the smallest in the deer family and hence the name. Experts said that the life of mouse deer is short, spanning between four and five years. "The number is going down considerably because of poaching. If the population increases, there will be more births. These animals have an important role to play in the wild," said an expert. He added that mouse deer also known as chevrotains are very timid and prefer hiding in dense vegetation. In the zoo's collection, there are six young ones, nine males and 15 females.
CZA has also given the task of breeding the white-backed vulture in captivity to the Nehru Zoological Park. However, the vulture breeding programme is going slow as there has been no new addition in the vulture breeding centre so far.