Southern pudu (Pudu puda)

Also known as: Chilian pudu
  
French: Poudou Du Sud, Pudu Du Sud
Spanish: Ciervo Enano, Pudu, Pudu Meridional, Venadito, Venado
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderCetartiodactyla
FamilyCervidae
GenusPudu (1)
SizeHead-and-body length: 85 cm (2)
Shoulder height: 35 – 45 cm (2)
Tail length: 8 cm (2)
Horn length: 7 – 10 cm (2)
Weight6.5 – 13.5 kg (2)

The southern pudu is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

The deer belonging to the Pudu genus are the smallest deer in the world (4), so tiny that people have even captured them for pets, thereby contributing to their decline in the wild (5).  Similar in appearance to the northern pudu (Pudu mephistopheles), but slightly smaller, the southern pudu (Pudu puda) has a short, glossy, reddish-brown to dark-brown coat, with slightly lighter underparts and legs. Its lips and the insides of its ears are orangish (4) (6). Southern pudu fawns are spotted with white, probably for camouflage. With a round body and short legs, the low-slung form of the southern pudu is similar to that of many small forest ungulates, and is thought to be an adaptation to slipping more easily through dense undergrowth and bamboo thickets (7). The eyes and ears of this species are small and the tail is very short (4). Male southern pudus sport short, simple spiked antlers that are shed annually in July (6).

The southern pudu is found in the lower Andes of Chile and Argentina (4).

The southern pudu prefers temperate rainforest with dense underbrush and bamboo thickets, which offer a good degree of cover from predators. However, it will occasionally venture out into more open habitats to feed (4) (8). This species is found on high mountainsides up to 1,700 metres above sea level, but also at much lower elevations and along the coast (4) (6).

Southern pudu are solitary animals and only come together during the breeding season, or ‘rut’ (8), in April and May (4). Females typically bear one fawn each year, from November to January, after a gestation period of approximately seven months (7) (8). Young southern pudus are weaned at 2 months, fully sized at 3, and sexually mature at 6 months for females and 8 to 12 for males (6). Offspring may remain with the adult female for 8 to 12 months before becoming independent (8).

This deer is active by both day and night, but mostly during the late afternoon, evening and morning, when it forages for leaves, twigs, bark, buds, fruit and seeds. Due to their small size, individuals often have to stand upright on their hind legs or jump onto fallen tree trunks to reach higher vegetation (6). The southern pudu navigates through the dense vegetation via a network of well-trodden trails, pathways and small tunnels, which lead to feeding and resting areas within their 16 to 26 hectare home range (4) (7). Dung piles are often formed next to these trails, usually near resting places (6).

The main threat to the southern pudu, which once ranged far more extensively across Chile, is destruction of its temperate forest habitat for cattle ranching, logging and other human developments (5) (8). Habitat fragmentation and loss through conversion of forest into open lands and exotic tree plantations poses a big problem to the survival of the southern pudu, as do road accidents and hunting. Feral or unleashed dogs that specialise in hunting pudus are often released into the countryside to hunt them (9) (10) (11).

Other threats to the southern pudu include the introduction of alien species, such as red deer from Europe, with which the pudu now has to compete for food (7). Domestic dogs may also prey upon this small deer (7), and may transmit parasites, to which the southern pudu is particularly susceptible (8).

Its listing on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) helps protect the southern pudu by banning all international trade in the species, but hunting nevertheless continues and still poses a serious threat (5) (8). Fortunately, the population in Chile has stabilised due to a reduction in the rate of habitat destruction. Pudu populations exist in a number of national parks, which need sufficient resources to enforce protection and create effective management plans (8).

An international captive breeding programme has been developed for the southern pudu, although there are no plans as yet to release captive-bred individuals back into the wild (8).

For more information on the southern pudu, see:

Authenticated (14/01/08) by Dr. Susana Gonzalez, Biological Research Institute “Clemente Estable” -Facultad de Ciencias-UdelaR and Chair of the IUCN Deer Specialist group.  
http://iibce.edu.uy/citogenetica/deer/

  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2008)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Endangered and Rare Animals (January, 2006)
    http://www.endangeredandrareanimals.com/southern_pudu.htm
  3. CITES (January, 2006)
    http://www.cites.org
  4. World Deer (January, 2006)
    http://www.worlddeer.org/southernpudu.html
  5. Animal Welfare Institute: Endangered Species Handbook (January, 2006)
    http://www.endangeredspecieshandbook.org/forest_south.php
  6. The Ultimate Ungulate Page (January, 2006)
    http://www.ultimateungulate.com/Artiodactyla/Pudu_puda.html
  7. World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) (January, 2006)
    http://www.waza.org/virtualzoo/factsheet.php?id=119-006-014-002&view=Deer
  8. Wemmer, C. (1998) Deer: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Deer Specialist Group, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland. Available at:
    http://www.iucn.org/themes/ssc/publications/actionplans.htm#Deer1998
  9. Jiménez, J.E. (1995) Responses of pudus (Pudupuda) to human disturbances in Neotropical temperate rainforests. Final Report for the Lincoln Park Zoo Scott Neotropic Fund, 1: 113 - .
  10. Macnamara, M. (1981) Project pudu. Oryx, 16: 185 - 186.
  11. Wetterberg, G.B. (1972) Pudu in a Chilean National Park. Oryx, 11: 347 - 351.