The French Missionary and the English Duke Who Saved a Chinese Deer From Extinction
When visitors enter Nanhaizi Milu Park, they step onto a long wooden bridge that stretches over a marsh. It’s the perfect place to see a herd of odd-looking deer in the distance—large and tawny, with big hooves, branched antlers, long tails, and shaggy coats. On a gray and blustery November afternoon, the deer are spending their time leisurely, placidly kneeling near feeders stocked with grass.
It’s a sight that wouldn’t have been possible 120 years ago. Though nearly 7,000 Père David’s deer roam the wetlands of China today, the species was declared extinct in the wild in 1900. Its resurrection is due to an unusual event in the annals of conservation—an accidental tag-team collaboration between a French missionary-cum-zoologist and an English duke.