Deers of Rhodos Island
For many years now the platoni
deer of Rhodos that has been considered an emblem of the
island, beautifies its forests and is a part of its
tradition. It is one of the few species of deer in Europe
that has survived until today. Two statues of the deer, a
male and a female, which are placed on columns, are found in
the old port of the city and decorate the entrance.
There are many popular stories that are related to the
growth and presence of the deer on the island. Many claim
that the platoni deer came to the island of Rhodos with the
arrival of the Crusaders. This theory has been correlated
with other historical characteristics of the island. Rhodes
is referred to in ancient texts as "Ofiusa" which means
"having a lot of snakes". According to this theory the
Crusaders, in order to protect their camps from snakes,
brougth the deer to be used as guards. Even though the deer
did not hunt to kill snakes, as many believe, it is said
that the antlers of the deer secrete an essence (an
alkaline), a smell that annoys and forces snakes to stay
away. So, some of these animals which the Crusaders brought,
escaped from the camps, hid in the forests and later created
the existing population.
Another theory says that the
deer were brought by the Venetians in the time they occupied
However, Rhodos is also referred to in
ancient texts as "Elafousa" meaning that in those days it
had many deers, which naturally existed on the island before
all these conquerors.
Archaeological findings that
indicate the existence of the deer in the East Aegean, are
dated back to the 6th millenium BC.
The two variants of the small Dama deer (often considered
two differing species by several writers) that have been
preserved until now, are found in the East Aegean (Rhodos)
and on the West Coast of Asia Minor (Thermessos National
Park, Antalia). The Dama dama and the Dama Mesopotamica in
Iran, reinforce the treory that the deer detached itself and
remained on the island of Rhodos when the Mediterranean
flooded the area of the Aegean and created the islands.It
also must be noted that the two species represents elements
of fauna that are characterised by the semitropical
distribution at the end of the quaternary period.
today is well-known by palaeontological and archaeological
indications that these deer were restricted in the area of
Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, at the end of the
Pleistocene and at the beginning of the Holocene period.
As far as classification, characteristics and habits the
platoni is a ruminant mammal of the deer family. It is a
medium size deer.Its length is approximately 1,5 meters and
its height, until the upper part of its back, reaches about
90 centimetres.It weighs approximately 100 kilos although it
is written that some mature bucks reach 150 kilos.
a very beautiful animal. Its beauty is mainly due to its
perfectly proportional body and exquisite colors.
Furthermore, bucks are adorned with perfectly symmetrical
and gorgeous antlers.It is very difficult to describe the
exact coloring of the coat, since it appears multi-colored
and varies, an it depends on the age of the animal and
season of the year. During the summer, the mature buck's fur
is a reddish brown, while his stomach and inside of his legs
is a creamy white. The hairs on his backbone are very light
at the roots, they turn brown and are nearly black at the
end. In winter and especially in the middle of it, the
animal's backbone, neck and ears become dark gray to gray
brown (rather than reddish brown). His stomach and the inner
part of his legs also become a reddish gray.
The characteristic large white patches, which are scattered
mainly on their upper body, back and hind, are chiefly used
The deer have rather long and slim legs,
a small head, a protruding larynx and a large neck.
male deer are distinguished by their large functional penis
and a prominent cluster of hair, which covers their
The antlers that only appear on the bunk are
round at the base, they open and broaden and end producing
characteristic tips. They grow perpendicular to the base,
straighten upwards and end pointing backwards. They are
characteristic and differ from antler of other deer, as they
are palmate. They are nearly always different, according to
the age of the animal, as far as their features and
symmetry. The antlers of the platoni fall out every May and
grow again slowly until they are fully grown by September.
For every year of the deer a new tip is added to the ample
Mature bucks often live alone or in-groups, at
the most of three or four. As they grow up they like to be
alone. The young bucks, the doe and newborn live all
together in herds. In October the mature bucks appear in the
herd chasing the young bucks away, which do not keep their
distance but roam around the herd of doe. The excitement of
the males, which follows this period, that is the season of
love, is tremendous. They often fight between themselves for
hours, for the victory over the females while the young
bucks take advantage of their activity.
period the bucks are careless and are sometimes exposed to,
fortunately few unconscious poachers. The doe's pregnancy
lasts for eight months and around the month of July they
give birth to one or two deer.
In Rhodos the platoni deer
live in pure trachea pine forests, mixed pine and cypress
forest with evergreen broadleaf bushes, in places which have
water all year round or where there are watering places for
sheep. They also live and feed in evergreen broadleaf
shrubbery (arbutus, holly, carob etc.).
It is calculated
by residents and personal estimations that today there are
approximately 100-150 animals.There is also an important
number of animals (about 70 individuals) which are being
preserved by the Municipality of Rhodos in enclosed areas.
Individual deer have been transported from Rhodes to other
parts of Greece where they live inside zoos and parks.
Unfortunately, for many years now there is a decrease in the
number of deer, which is mainly due to the poachers and the
poor mentality of the residents of the island, not to give
information to the competent services (Foresters, Police),
for the detection and restriction of the poachers,
considering the cooperation like
betrayal or otherwise called "snitching". Although, the
residents of Rhodos love and look after the deer they can
not help as much as they should towards the capture and the
exemplary punishment of poachers, who without realizing
destroy and eliminate the symbols of our place.
the other hand, the means and staff numbers that the local
forestry possesses do not seem to be enough for the
effective confronting of the phenomenon.
There was a
decrease in number many deer were burnt in two large fires
in Rhodos in 1987 and 1992. Although important, this can not
be regarded as the main reason for the decreasing
population, since in reality, due to an increase of
nutrition after the first year of the fire, the birth rate
Another important reason for the decreasing
number of deer is the equivalent decrease of cultivated land
that mainly results due to the occupation of the local
people with tourist jobs. We should not ignore the use of
many and strong farming chemicals for cultivation that
poison the animal's food and water sources.
On the map
which follows the biotope of the deer appears but it has to
be noted that there are deer in other areas and that the
deer from specified areas can roam according to the factors
that influence their survival, such as the quality of food,
the water supply but mainly the pressure they receive from
the presence and the legal or illegal activities of man.