The story of the Persian fallow deer is a beautiful example of how the Tisch Family Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem plays an important role in conservation programs. Persian Fallow Deer (Dama dama mesopotamica, to use its Latin name or Yahmor Parsi in Hebrew) is the roebuck mentioned in the Bible as an animal that chews the cud and has cloven hooves and hence is kosher (Deuteronomy 14:5). Moreover, it was obviously considered fit for a king, as it was served at King Solomon’s table (I Kings; 4:23).This probably contributed to its downfall and the animal disappeared from the Carmel region – its last local refuge – by the end of the 19th century. The poor deer was the victim of hunting, the use of poisons in agriculture, and the destruction of its habitat.Once found in a wide range of areas across the Middle East, as its name suggests, the species almost died out except for a few individuals in Iran. Luckily for the Persian fallow deer, and for us, it was saved in what some have called “The Great Persian Deer Heist.” Long before the Tehran TV spy series grabbed our attention, just as the Islamic Revolution was overtaking Iran in December 1978, four female deer were caught and brought to Israel on the last El Al flight out. Together with males who had previously made aliyah in less dramatic circumstances, these animals were released in the Hai Bar Carmel Nature Reserve and provided not food for tables, but the source of a much-needed conservation project, with the Biblical Zoo serving as a breeding center.The Biblical Zoo and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority are partners in the Persian fallow deer re-introduction program, which is supported by the Segre Foundation in Switzerland. Some of the deer were equipped with tracking devices, providing valuable information about their behavior in the wild. The first deer were released in Galilee and more recently a second project was launched to set them free in the hills around Jerusalem. The rationale, according to the zoo, is to foster another population in the wild for greater genetic variety and better chance of survival in the event of something unforeseen, like a disease, decimating the population in one area.“Over the years we have released tens of deer in the Nahal Soreq area,” says Dr. Nili Avni-Magen, the zoological director and chief veterinarian at the Jerusalem zoo. “In the last three years we have seen third-generation fawns, which have been born to mothers that themselves were born in the wild. The return of the Persian fallow deer to the Israeli landscape is one of the most successful cases of the reintroduction of a species that has become extinct in the wild.”Avni-Magen and the rest of the zoo staff were particularly excited to recently receive photographs of “Deer #42,” who was born at the zoo in 2015 and released at Nahal Soreq Nature Reserve in February 2017. Now all grown up, he looks happy and healthy in the Jerusalem Hills.The sighting of the Sabra Persian fallow deer with his majestic antlers and regal bearing signifies the return of this native species to the Israeli landscape a hundred years after its extinction. You can’t help fawning over images of these shy, spotted Bambis – born to be wild.