Mill Mountain Zoo Celebrates Oldest Living Western Tufted Deer

Mill Mountain Zoo is excited to announce the 28th birthday of Honnicut! Honnicut is the oldest living Western Tufted Deer on record! Due to overhunting and habitat destruction, the Western Tufted Deer is listed as Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and are most easily seen in reputable zoological facilities.

Honnicut came to Mill Mountain Zoo 10 years ago as part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP) from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. The SSP was created to ensure the survival of selected species in zoos and aquariums, most of which are threatened or endangered in the wild. Mill Mountain Zoo also participates in the SSP for the Red Wolf, Red Panda, and Snow Leopard as well.

Western Tufted Deer usually have a life span of 10-12 years, so Honnicut turning 28 is quite an accomplishment. Honnicut’s incredible age truly is a testament to the outstanding care provided to him and every other animal in residence at the Zoo. “Genetics certainly played a large part in his long life, but I’d like to think the exceptional care he has received with us also helped.”, said Julia Franet-Hornbeck Mill Mountain Zoo’s General Curator.

Western Tufted Deer are found mainly from the southern to eastern coast of China to eastern Tibet. They inhabit high, damp forests and are herbivores. They are called “tufted” due to a little black tuft of hair on their forehead. They also have fangs!

To get ready to celebrate this momentous birthday, Keeper Gretchen Hardy baked him a cake full of all his favorite goodies and made him a birthday box for his enrichment. He had a whole crew of people to sing him “Happy Birthday” as well and wish him a long and happy life.

“Niki quote about why its so important to participate in SSP’s with other facilities.”

Most people have never seen a Western Tufted Deer as they are not a zoo staple animal. Coming to see Honnicut gives people an opportunity to expand their Nature surroundings and learn more about these magnificent humble creatures and why they are so important. “I think it’s just such a great opportunity for people to come see and interact with a species of deer they wouldn’t normally ever see.”, Julia Franet-Hornbeck said.

We invite you to pay a visit to Mill Mountain Zoo to say hi to Honnicut and wish him another long and fun 28 years with the Mill Mountain Zoo.

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