Hunan Geography
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On December 18th, 2005 when it was photographed by our cameraman, the Mei City seemed to be only a small common modern town situated in the district of Yueyang Tower of Yueyang City. 180 years ago, however, it was well known as the Kingdom of Pee David's Deer, whose history can be traced back to the Spring-Autumn Period about 2500 years ago till today.
Geography Terminology
  • Academic name:Elaphurus davidianus
  • English name:Peer David's deer
  • Distribution:Liaoning,North of China Yellow River and the middle and Lower Part of Yangtze River
  • Level:the national first-level protected animal
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According to the historical record, there had been living Peer David's deer in Hunan Province during the period from 1576 to 1908. Based upon various ancient books produced in this period, it was once widely distributed across the Donting River Basin from The Warring States period till Tang dynasty. It can be conjectured from some fossils unearthed in this area that, besides Peer David's deer, there once lived other mammals such as Asian elephant and rhinoceros.

Experts have made an analysis of the recordings from some ancient books and hold that the Asian elephants and rhinoceros in the Donting River Basin either became extinct or migrated toward the south in the late Song dynasty, and that its Peer David's deer was wiped out in the end of the 19th century. Its extinction is attributed to the deprivation of its habitats and massive hunting by human beings. It lost its natural habitat because of the continual drop in temperature since 1050 in Dongting Lake and, more importantly, as a direct result of the rapid rise of population and large-scale inning in this area.

As is evidently depicted in the following pictures, the Peer David's deer
was forced to gradually give way and withdraw finally to the last
marshland along the coastline in the lower reaches of Yangtze River
(located in Jiangsu Province). The same destiny happened to the elk
species living along the coastline in the north and Yellow
River Basin.

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So far, an agreement has been achieved by zoologists that Chinese wild elks including those of Dongting Lake finally disappeared along the coastal area near the mouth of Yangtze River roughly 120 to 140 years ago till today.

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For the time being, the elks across the world add up to at least 3000, 2000 of which are inhabiting china and are derived from 61 elks delivered from England twenty years ago. In August, 1985, 22 of them returned to Nanhaizi in Beijing, the last place where they disappeared. The other 39 elks were sent back to the beach in Dafeng, Jiangsu Province, the last habitat of their wild ancestors.

In 1994 and 2003, elks were introduced from Beijing to Shishou in Hubei Province and Yuanyang in Henan Province respectively, for which reserves were established.

Tian'ezhou reserve for elks was set up in Shishou, Hubei Province in 1994, where the elks were half enclosed. During the flood in 1998, some elks in the reserve escaped back to Hunan Province. According to some villagers, only a pregnant elk was lucky enough to be saved by the Wild Animal Rescue Center of Hunan Province, and, later that year, gave birth to a male baby elk.

According to some data, an elk's life span is theoretically 25 years and it becomes sexually mature at the age of 3. The male elk lonely confined here is 7 years old.

On Dec. 19th, 2005, we visited the mother elk and her baby in Tianjilin Botanical Garden. They are the only two elks left in Hunan Province, which are encaged in a simple corner surrounded by wood stakes with enough distance away from a dozen of spotted dear nearby.

Suppose elks can think in a way we can not interpret, they will not believe that this used to be the homeland for their ancestor to make their joyous leaps from and to.

An elk appears quite extraordinary for its face looks like a horse's but it is by no means a horse, its hoof looks like an ox's but it is never an ox, its horn looks like a deer's but it is never a deer, and its tailor looks like a donkey but it is never a donkey. The majority of deer inhabit mountains, forests and grasslands, while elks inhabit typically in marshlands. Their characteristic features serve to adapt themselves to the wetland. For instance, the long face enables their head to dip deep enough into the water to seek float grass; the wide hoof prevents them from falling into the wetland while walking on it; the long tail is evolved to drive away flies and mosquitoes abounding in wetland.
There is no other type of deer except elks whose horns come off in winter.