Dama mesopotamica


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Dama mesopotamica
Species Authority: (Brooke, 1875)
Common Name/s:
English Persian Fallow Deer, Mesopotamian Fallow Deer
Dama dama (Brooke, 1875) subspecies mesopotamica
Taxonomic Notes: Feldhamer et al. (1988) and Geist (1998) included Dama mesopotamica as a subspecies of Dama dama, though it was regarded as a separate species by Haltenorth (1959), Ferguson et al. (1985), Uerpmann (1987), and Harrison and Bates (1991). We follow Pitra et al. (2004) and Randi et al. (2001) in treating D. mesopotamica as a separate species, based on a major study on the evolution and phylogeny of old world deer.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered D ver 3.1
Year Published: 2011
Date Assessed: 2010-01-23
Assessor/s: Rabiei, A. & Saltz, D.
Reviewer/s: McShea, W. & Chiozza, F.
Listed as Endangered as although the total population probably contain more than 250 mature individuals, it is questioned whether the re-introduced individuals should count as a fully wild population and if these individuals have produced viable offspring. If these are excluded then the species qualifies for the Endangered category under criterion D with less than 250 mature individuals as the only surviving indigenous wild populations are in Dez Wildlife Refuge and Karkeh Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Iran. This species should be reassessed when further information becomes available on population size and the exact number of mature individuals.
2010 Endangered (IUCN 2010.2)
2010 Endangered
2006 Vulnerable (IUCN 2006)
2006 Vulnerable
1996 Endangered
1994 Endangered (Groombridge 1994)
1990 Endangered (IUCN 1990)
1988 Endangered (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
1986 Endangered (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The Persian Fallow Deer formerly occurred in Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and eastern Turkey (Hemami and Rabiei 2002). It was depicted in relief artwork dated prior to the 9th century BC and in ancient times its range probably included North Africa from Tunisian border to the Red Sea. By 1875 it was restricted to southwestern and western Iran, having disappeared from the rest of its range. It was considered extinct, but a small population was rediscovered in southwestern Iran in 1956. The only surviving indigenous wild populations are in Dez Wildlife Refuge and Karkeh Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Iran (though the population in Karkeh has also been restocked with animals from the Dasht-e-Naz Wildlife Refuge).

There are reintroduced populations in Iran as follows: Dasht-e-Naz Wildlife Refuge in northern Iran; Semeskandeh Wildlife Refuge in northern Iran; Ashk and Kaboudan Islands in Lake Uromiyeh (Uromiyeh National Park); and the Miankotal enclosure in Arjan and Parishan Protected Area. All these reintroduced populations are either in enclosures or on islands. Some of the animals in Semeskandeh Wildlife Refuge are hybrids with Dama dama, although the hybrids and pure-bred animals are maintained in separate populations. Introductions to Shiri, Lavan, Kish Islands in the Persian Gulf were probably not successful.

In Israel a reintroduction program for Persian Fallow Deer has been underway since 1996 with more than 250 animals in the wild today. The breeding nucleus in Israel was founded in 1976 from three animals (two males and one female) from the Opel Zoo and four females from Semeskandeh facility in Iran. Animals at the Semeskandeh facility were received from Opel in 1973 and were suspected in to be hybrids with the European Fallow Deer. However, all hybrids produced at Opel were reported to have been disposed of in 1965-66 (Jantschke 1991). Genetic studies of the Israeli population revealed low genetic diversity (over 95% similarity between individuals), which suggests no hybridization. None of the individuals in the Israeli population exhibits the morphological traits typical of European fallow deer (palmate antlers or a relatively long bushy tail with a central black streak).
Iran, Islamic Republic of
Regionally extinct:
Iraq; Jordan; Lebanon; Palestinian Territory, Occupied; Syrian Arab Republic; Turkey
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The Persian Fallow Deer was thought to be extinct by the 1940s, but a small population of perhaps 25 animals was subsequently rediscovered in Khuzistan Province, Iran during the 1950s (Davies 1982). As of the mid 1990s, the total population in Iran (including captive and re-introduced animals) did not exceed 250. By 2004, the total Iranian population had increased to approximately 340 individuals (A. Rabiei pers. comm.). By 2008, the number of animals had increased further, though only 365 of these are pure-bred, the remainder being hybrids (A. Rabiei pers. comm.). In Israel there were approximately 200 individuals in the north of the country by 2005, and around 150 in Hai Bar Carmel Reserve.
Population Trend: Increasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: The Persian Fallow Deer occupies a range of woodlands, such as tamarisk, oak and pistachio woodlands. The wild population utilizes riparian forest thickets (McTaggart-Cowan and Holloway 1978). The rut is during August and early September, and calving at the end of March to early April, following a gestation period of approximately 229 days (Chapman and Chapman 1975).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): This species has experienced numerous threats such as habitat destruction, poaching, natural predation, and competition with livestock, and this lead to its long decline and near extinction. Also they are suffering from the effects of small population size, isolation and inbreeding (Hemami and Rabiei 2002).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species has an important and interesting conservation history. In 1960, the Iranian Game and Fish Department initiated the first conservation actions by designating the Dez Wildlife Refuge and Karkeh Wildlife Refuge around the site of this animal's re-discovery. A male and a female calf were bought from local people in south-west Iran by a team from Von Opel’s Zoo in Germany in 1957–1958.  In 1960 the first fawn was conceived in Opel (a female) but the male died before conceiving a male.  Subsequently a stag was sent to Germany in 1964.  In the interim the female was cross bred with European males (Hemami and Rabiei 2002). The hybrids were disposed of in 1965-1966 (Jantschke 1991).  Between 1964 and 1965, a 400 strong team captured 6 deer within the protected areas and transfer them to the Dasht-e-Naz Wildlife Refuge, where they were managed in a 55 hectare enclosure, and where the population increased.  Iran received seven animals from Germany in 1972 which were suspected as hybrids, and kept them isolated from the pure-bred Persian population at Dasht-e-Naz. This  population totalled 30 animals in 1977 and was transferred to a 6 ha enclosure in Semeskandeh Wildlife Refuge to allow more space for the pure-bred population, and to prevent gene exchange between them. In December 1978, four of these animals were transferred to Israel. From 1977, specimens of pure-bred Persian fallow deer were transferred to new sites in different parts of Iran including its original habitat in Karkheh Wildlife Refuge. Signs of deer were still presented in Karkheh prior to the translocation (Hemami and Rabiei 2002). Subsequently in 1995 the new enclosure (180 ha) was established in Semeskandeh Wildlife Refuge for transferred pure-bred deer from Dasht-e-Naz, in order to reduce the population density in Dasht-e-Naz (Rabiei 2002). These conservation measures have brought the species back from the brink of extinction in Iran, and the population is gradually increasing. However, the two truly wild population remain seriously threatened and need strict protection in order to recover.

Recommended conservation actions have been compiled by Rabiei (1995, 2002, 2003), and include: further population surveys; ecological and genetic research; strengthening of existing management of protected areas; creating of new protected areas; promote protection of the last remaining truly wild populations in the Dez Wildlife Refuge and Karkeh Wildlife Refuge; re-introducing animals to these two populations; strengthening the existing captive breeding programs; and establishing a collaborative captive breeding programme and reintroductions across the historic range of the species. It is extremely important to keep the pure-bred and wild animals separate, and to concentrate all conservation efforts on the pure-bred stock.
The species is included on CITES Appendix I (as Dama dama mesopotamica).

Bibliography [top]

Baillie, J. and Groombridge, B. (comps and eds). 1996. 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Bar-David, S., Saltz, D. and Dayan, T. 2005. Predicting the spatial dynamics of reintroduced populations – The Persian fallow deer. Ecological Applications 15: 1833-¬1846.

Bar-David, S., Saltz, D., Dayan, T., Dolev, A. and Perelberg, A. 2005. Demographic models and reality in reintroductions: the Persian fallow deer in Israel. Conservation Biology 19: 131-138.

Chapman, D. and Chapman, N. 1975. Fallow deer: their history, distribution and biology. Terence Dalton Ltd, Lavenham, UK.

Davies, S. J. M. 1982. Climatic change and the advent of domestication: the succession of ruminant Artiodactyla in the late Pleistocene-holocene in the Israel region. Paleorient 8(2): 5–15.

Dolev, A., Saltz, D., Bar-David, S. and Yom-Tov, Y. 2002. The impact of repeated releases on the space-use patterns of reintroduced Persian fallow deer (Dama dama mesopotamica) in Israel. Journal of Wildlife Management 66: 737-746.

Feldhamer, G. A., Farris-Renner, K. C. and Barker, C. M. 1988. Dama dama. Mammalian Species 317: 1-8.

Ferguson, W. W., Porath, Y. and Paley, S. 1985. Late Bronze period yields first osteological evidence of Dama dama (Artiodactyla; Cervidae) from Israel and Arabia. Mammalia 49: 209-214.

Geist, V. 1998. Deer of the World: Their Evolution, Behaviour, and Ecology. Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, USA.

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Haltenorth, T. 1959. Beitrag zur kenntnis des Mesopotamischen Damhirsches—Cervus (Dama) mesopotamicus Brooke, 1875—und zur stammes- und verbreitungs- geschichte der Damhirsche Allengemein. Säugetierkundliche Mitteilungen VIII, Sonderheft: 1–89.

Harrison, D. L. and Bates, P. J. J. 1991. The Mammals of Arabia. Harrison Zoological Museum, Sevenoaks, UK.

Hemami, M. R. and Rabiei, A. 2002. The conservation of Persian Fallow Deer (Dama dama mesopotamica). 5th International Deer Biology Congress.

IUCN. 1990. IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

IUCN. 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2011.1). Available at: (Accessed: 16 June 2011).

IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre. 1986. 1986 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre. 1988. 1988 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Jantschke, F. 1991. Perisan fallow deer (Dama dama mesopotamica) at the Opel-Zoo Keronenberg – a history and critical evaluation. In: Rudloff, K. (ed.), International Studbook of Persian fallow deer #1, pp. 15-19.

McTaggart-Cowan, I. and Holloway, C. W. 1978. Geographical location and current conservation status of the threatened deer of the world. IUCN. Threatened deer: proceedings of a working meeting of the Deer Specialist Group of the IUCN Survival Service Commission, pp. 11–22. IUCN, Morges, Switzerland.

Pemberton, J. M. 1990. Mesopotamian fallow deer (Dama dama mesopotamica). IUCN SSC Deer Specialist Group Newsletter 8: 15-18.

Perelberg, A., Saltz, D., Bar-David, S., Dolev, A. and Yom-Tov, Y. 2003. Seasonal and circadian changes in the home ranges of reintroduced Persian fallow deer. Journal of Wildlife Management 67: 485-492.

Pitra, C., Fickel, J., Meijaard, E. and Groves, C. 2004. Evolution and phylogeny of old world deer. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 33: 880-895.

Rabiei, A. 1995. Persian Fallow Deer Ecology and Management. B.Sc. Thesis, Tehran University.

Rabiei, A. 2002. Status of Persian Fallow Deer in Dasht-e-Naz and Semeskandeh Wildlife Refuges.

Rabiei, A. 2003. Persian fallow deer (Dama dama mesopotamica) census in Ashk Island. Deer Specialist Group Newsletter 18.

Randi, E., Mucci, N., Claro-Hergueta, F., Bonnet, A. and Douzery, E.J.P. 2001. A mitochondrial DNA control region phylogeny of Cervinae: speciation in Cervus and implications for conservation. Animal Conservation 4: 1-12.

Saltz, D. 1998. A long-term systematic approach to reintroductions: the Persian fallow deer and Arabian oryx in Israel. Animal Conservation 1: 245-252.

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Citation: Rabiei, A. & Saltz, D. 2011. Dama mesopotamica. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <>. Downloaded on 18 April 2014.
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