The social organization of Chinese water deer was studied in a zoological park. Most adults lived together in the mixed zone, although other habitats were available. The overlap between individual areas was largest in females. In the mating season alone, less than half of the males established territories which overlapped in small spots where most encounters occurred. Females travelled freely throughout the entire available area, but non-territorial males stayed between the territories. Except in males during mating season, very few physical contacts other than sniffing took place between individuals regardless of age, sex or status. Each animal lived alone and did not show attraction or aggressiveness towards congeners. Grouping was temporary with no durable link between individuals, not even between mothers and daughters older than 5 months. The solitary life of individuals on a common ground and the establishment of seasonal territories make the water deer unique among ruminants. The species appears to be no more social than the water chevrotain, an “ancient” species. This fits well with other characteristics of the species.
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