The Brandywine Zoo’s three-year-old southern pudu Haechan has died just six months after arriving in Delaware from the Los Angeles Zoo.
The small deer was born at the LA facility in 2018 and gained international attention after fans of the Korean pop music group NCT-127 won a Facebook fundraiser to sponsor the tiny deer. They named him Haechan for his apparent resemblance to a member of the group. The pudu even had its own Twitter account with 21,000 followers.
NCT-127 visited Haechan in LA in 2019.
Haechan was one of about 200 southern pudu held in zoos around the world. The second smallest deer species, southern pudu have a shoulder height of just 14 to 17 inches. There are fewer than 10,000 southern pudu left in the wild in Argentina and Chile, where their habitat is rapidly decreasing.
“The onset and progression of symptoms was very rapid,” said Brandywine Zoo director Brint Spencer. The zoo’s animal care team noticed Haechan acting lethargic and coughing sporadically the day before he died. “At this time, we do not have a cause of death and won’t until after the necropsy.”
The necropsy will be performed at the New Bolton Center of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, where Haechan was taken after his condition deteriorated this past Saturday.
Haechan was brought to the Brandywine Zoo as part of the Species Survival Plan Program to mate with the zoo’s female pudu Clover. The SSP coordinates mating for vulnerable species in human care to optimally match genetic diversity in an effort to increase the species’ population numbers.
“Everyone is grieving here,” Spencer said. “It’s so sad, especially when the two pudu had bonded and seemed content.”
Clover, who shared a habitat with Haechan, has shown no symptoms of illness. She’s now under careful observation.