Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Cetartiodactyla Cervidae

Scientific Name: Dama mesopotamica
Species Authority: (Brooke, 1875)
Regional Assessments:
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: 2013
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.
Previously published Red List assessments:
2010 Endangered (EN)
2008 Endangered (EN)
2006 Vulnerable (VU)
1996 Endangered (EN)
1994 Endangered (E)
1990 Endangered (E)
1988 Endangered (E)
1986 Endangered (E)
1965 Very rare and believed to be decreasing in numbers

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).
Countries occurrence:
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.
Current Population Trend: Increasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented: Yes

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

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This species is still hunted illegally for food and sport.

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).

Citation: Rabiei, A. & Saltz, D. 2013. Dama mesopotamica. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2013: e.T6232A12587344. . Downloaded on 13 October 2015.
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