International Animal Star “Haechan the Pudu” Leaves the Los Angeles Zoo for a New East-Coast Adventure
By Emily Marrin
The nearly three-year-old southern pudu male gained fame in 2019 after K-Pop fans donated to name him in honor of a member of the popular group NCT-127. Now that the pudu is a mature adult, he has gone to Delaware’s Brandywine Zoo to be paired with a potential mate.
Celebrity southern pudu male “Haechan” has traveled from his birthplace at the Los Angeles Zoo to Brandywine Zoo in Wilmington, Delaware, where he will be officially introduced to the public in March, 2022, after acclimating to his new home. The November, 2021 move was a recommendation of the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for the southern pudu, whose populations are declining in the wild. Fans are encouraged to join Haechan in his next adventure by following Brandywine Zoo on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Since the announcement of his December 2018 birth at the L.A. Zoo, the pudu has attracted and energized a wide fan base on social media. His introduction was followed by a Facebook fundraiser that invited fans to donate to name the fawn after NCT-127 group member Haechan (nee Lee Dong-hyuck), whose nickname is “Pudu.” The fundraiser’s goal was met and surpassed in two-and-a-half hours and a new animal star was christened. Not only did NCT-127 soon visit the L.A. Zoo to see the pudu and meet animal care staff during their 2019 North America tour – an event that garnered international coverage – but fans have regularly ventured to the Zoo to glimpse the famous deer.
“”Haechan the Pudu’ is a fan-driven phenomenon, and we’re so grateful to all who donated and continue to care so deeply about him,” says Tom Jacobson, president of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association (GLAZA), the Zoo’s nonprofit partner, which provides support through fundraising, marketing, and more. GLAZA created the naming fundraiser after noticing social media comments comparing the deer fawn to the singer Haechan. “In embracing this individual animal in such a wonderful way, fans have also raised awareness of a vulnerable species and the important work of zoos. We hope they continue to follow Haechan at his new home.” Jacobson adds, “I know I’m excited to see what comes next.”
With Haechan now having reached sexual maturity, he was ready to leave the L.A. Zoo, where there were no potential mates for him among the six other pudus in our care. Species Survival Plans are collaborative efforts among accredited zoos and aquariums to manage animal populations within human care, ensuring that they are genetically diverse, healthy, and sustainable. “SSPs are a key component of zoo-based animal conservation,” says L.A. Zoo Director of Animal Programs Beth Schaefer. “A lot of strategy, data, planning, and coordination goes into them. Knowing that fans associate Haechan with the L.A. Zoo, it would have been tempting to keep him here. But this move is best for Haechan and for southern pudus.”
“We’re very excited to welcome Haechan,” says Brint Spencer, director of the Brandywine Zoo. “Our animal care staff worked closely with counterparts at the L.A. Zoo to make sure Haechan’s journey was seamless and safe. We hope we have a potential breeding pair of pudu, as recommended by the SSP, contributing to the pudu population in human care and raising awareness of pudu in the wild.” It’s hoped that Haechan will father a fawn, so fans should definitely stay tuned.
Haechan the Pudu fans and wildlife lovers of all stripes are encouraged to:
- Follow #HaechanThePudu and @BrandywineZoo on social media for special content and updates
- Visit the L.A. Zoo’s online retail store to purchase the reissue of 2019’s limited-edition commemorative “Los Angeles Zoo Pudu” T-shirt at this link, while supplies last
- Learn more about southern pudus at the L.A. Zoo’s website
Los Angeles residents and tourists can still view pudus at the L.A. Zoo in our South America section. “These animals are solitary in the wild,” says Beth Schaefer, “so guests won’t see the Zoo’s pudus congregating in a herd within the habitat. Most likely, there will be one pudu on view at a time.” As fans know, even one pudu delivers more than enough cuteness.
Southern pudus are classified as “near threatened” in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, with pressures such as habitat loss, invasive species, and pollution causing population declines in their native range of Argentina and Chile.
Author: Emily Marrin