The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control announced that the Brandywine Zoo’s southern pudu, Haechan, died on June 25, 2022. He was three years old.
The cause of death is unknown at this time. Brandywine Zoo officials report that Haechan was lethargic the morning before his passing and coughing sporadically. Prior to this day, there had been no outward symptoms of illness or distress. The animal care team observed him closely and reported the small deer seemed to be more lethargic as the day went on, so he was moved from the pudu habitat to the Animal Care Center on the zoo grounds. On the morning of Saturday, June 25, his condition had declined further, and he was transferred to a veterinary clinic nearby in Pennsylvania, where he passed away.
“The onset and progression of symptoms was very rapid,” said Brint Spencer, director of the Brandywine Zoo, “and, at this time, we do not have a cause of death and won’t until after the necropsy.
The Brandywine Zoo, operated by the DNREC Division of Parks and Recreation, is working with the New Bolton Center of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, who will perform a necropsy, or the animal equivalent of an autopsy.
Haechan’s female companion, Clover, with whom he shared the pudu habitat, has no symptoms of illness. She is under careful observation.
The animal care staff, volunteers and guests at the Brandywine Zoo are heartbroken and stunned by Haechan’s unexpected passing. “Everyone is grieving here,” said Spencer. “It’s so sad, especially when the two pudu had bonded and seemed content.”
Haechan was born at the Los Angeles Zoo in December 2018. He was named by fans of the Korean pop music group NCT-127 for his resemblance to a singer in the group. The fan-driven Facebook fundraiser was successful in officially sponsoring the fawn and naming him Haechan. He arrived at the Brandywine Zoo in December 2021, sent there to meet his potential mate, Clover, under the guidance of the Species Survival Plan Program (SSP), where vulnerable species in human care are optimally matched for genetic diversity to increase the population. The SSP is coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. This pudu subspecies is considered Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.
Southern pudu are the second smallest deer in the world at 14 to 17 inches at shoulder height. There are fewer than 10,000 southern pudu left in the wild in Argentina and Chile, and these numbers are rapidly decreasing because of habitat destruction, being hunted for food by humans, and killed by loose dogs. There are about 200 pudu in zoos around the world.
The Brandywine Zoo, managed by the DNREC Division of Parks and Recreation, is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and is one of 240 accredited zoos and aquariums worldwide that meet the highest standard in animal care and welfare, and provide fun, safe, and educational experiences.