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Range DescriptionArchaeological and historical data attest that Persian Fallow Deer was distributed from the western Iranian plateau to the Mediterranean and from Southern Anatolia to South Levant, which nowadays includes western Iran, Iraq, Israel, eastern Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and southeastern Turkey (e.g. Haltenorth 1959, Chapman and Chapman 1975, Uerpmann 1987, Hemami and Rabiei 2002, Daujat 2013, Vigne et al. 2015, Daujat et al. in prep.). It was thought that the geographic distribution of the two species of Fallow Deer European and Persian did not overlap. However, recent research suggests that the two might have co-existed and even hybridised in some areas of southeastern Turkey (Sykes and Baker pers. comm.).
The Persian Fallow Deer played a major role as game in the economic subsistence of numerous Late Glacial and Early Holocene human societies of the Near and Middle East, especially in Southern Levant during the Late Pleistocene (Davis 1982, Bar-Oz et al. 2013). However, it was during the Holocene period from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic to the Bronze Age (over six millennia), that it became of cultural significance on the island of Cyprus, after being purposely introduced by humans at the very end of the 9th millennium BC. This intentional translocation did not result a priori in domestication of Persian Fallow Deer on Cyprus at any time (Croft 1991, 2002, Davis 1994, Daujat 2013, Vigne et al. 2015, Daujat et al. in prep.). Although populations probably experienced depletion throughout the early Neolithic periods PPNB and Aceramic because of intense human hunting pressure and destruction of habitats/competition with domesticates, at least a partial human desertion of the island seems to have replenished the stock of Persian Fallow Deer (Croft 2002, Daujat 2013, Vigne et al.2015, Daujat et al. in prep.). Despite an underlying concern towards more sustainable management until the Bronze Age, the growth of human density and destruction of its natural habitat, and hunting/poaching pressure, eventually brought the Persian Fallow Deer on Cyprus to its total extinction on the island sometime during the Late Medieval/early post-Medieval period (Croft 2002, Flourentzos 2002, Daujat 2013, Daujat et al. in prep.). On the continental mainland in Southern Levant, Persian Fallow Deer is known to have drastically decreased in importance in humans subsistence from the Natufian period until the Crusader periods in conjunction with its population in the wild for the very same reasons (Tsahar et al. 2009).
The Persian Fallow Deer is also reported outside its natural range in Egypt at least from 2nd millennium BC, probably as a menagerie animal (Kitagawa 2008). Persian Fallow Deer has been depicted in a wide variety of forms throughout its geographic range: from Bronze Age pottery on Cyprus to Assyrian relief artwork, Egyptian paintings and Mesopotamian cylinder-seal (e.g. Haltenorth 1959, Chapman and Chapman 1975, Uerpmann 1987, Flourentzos 2002, Kitagawa 2008).
By 1875 it was restricted to southwestern and western Iran, having disappeared from the rest of its range. In the early 1950s it was considered extinct, but a small population was rediscovered in southwestern Iran in 1956 and brought to Germany in order to start a breeding programme at the Opel Zoo, in Kronberg (Haltenorth 1959). The last documented surviving indigenous wild populations were found in the 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), but it is unclear whether any true wild animals still remain in these areas today (A Rabiei. pers. comm. 2014).
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 in semi-captive conditions (A. Rabiei pers. comm. 2014).. Introductions to Shiri, Lavan, Kish Islands in the Persian Gulf were probably not successful.
In Israel, a reintroduction programme for Persian Fallow Deer has been underway since 1996 with more than 300 animals in the wild today, mainly in the north of the country (Galilee) but also in the Judean Mountains near Jerusalem. The breeding nucleus in Israel, at Hai-Bar Carmel Reserve, was founded in 1976 from three animals (two males and one female) from the Opel Zoo and four females from the Iranian population at the Dasht-e-Naz (Chapman 2010) facility in Iran. Some of the animals at the nearby Semeskandeh facility were received from Opel Zoo in 1973 and were suspected to be hybrids with European Fallow Deer. Until recently it was suspected that some of the deer transported to Israel were from Semeskandeh. However, all hybrids produced at Opel Zoo were reported to have been disposed of in 1965-66 (Jantschke 1991). Early genetics studies (using enzymes) show no evidence of hybridization in the descendants of the Opel Zoo animals transferred to Semeshkandeh (Pemberton 1990, Saltz 2013). A recent genetic study using seven microsatellite markers in Persian Fallow Deer from the modern Israeli herd and the Iranian population from the 1960s detected no evidence of hybridization (Fernndez-Garca 2012). For the Iranian animals however, the possibility that hybridization has since occurred cannot be excluded.