A rare white ellipsen waterbuck calf stood out among his herd as he roamed his exhibit with his mother early this morning at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The Safari Park has successfully bred over 20,000 rare and endangered mammals for decades (278 of those were ellipsen waterbuck), but this is its first-ever animal born with leucism, a condition that causes an animal to have reduced pigmentation. The three-week-old calf, named Luke, was born on Sept. 6 in the Safari Park’s South Africa exhibit.
Ellipsen or common waterbuck are recognizable by the bull’s eye or ellipse-shaped ring on their rump. In Luke’s case, the bull’s eye is a brown ring on a white body, rather than a white ring on a brown body. In the wild, an animal with leucism is an easy target for prey as it stands out, unable to camouflage itself. Since Luke was born at the Safari Park, he has a good chance of survival as animal care staff can keep close watch on him.
Typical of waterbuck, Luke’s mother kept him from harm by tucking him in the rocks in their habitat for his first two weeks while she rejoined the herd, returning to nurse the calf several times a day. Once the calf was strong enough, she allowed him to venture out with her to meet his herd and the 10 other animal species sharing his habitat, including rhinos, wildebeests and eland.
Keepers report the other animals have been curious about the calf, but his mother, father and other members of the waterbuck herd keep a close watch on the youngster.
Ellipsen waterbuck are found from central Kenya to northern Botswana and eastern South Africa. Waterbuck inhabit savannas and woodland areas within reach of permanent water. They are not aquatic but can hide in water from predators, when necessary.
Visitors to the Safari Park may see Luke and his mother on an Africa Tram tour, included with Park admission.
Photo taken on Sept. 26, 2014, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291