The Animal Care Center at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park has welcomed three new additions! On September 10, we received a newborn male gerenuk antelope. His mother was a first-time mom and was therefore inexperienced at raising a baby. After keepers watched the mother and calf for several hours with no sign of interest in her newborn, the decision was made to raise him at the nursery (see post Graceful Gerenuks). He will be housed behind the scenes in our infant isolation area until he gets a bit older.
The word “gerenuk” comes from the Somali language and means “giraffe-necked”. Gerenuks are able to stand up on their hind legs and stretch out their long necks to get food off of tall bushes or small trees. For our gerenuk boy, we hang fresh browse just out of reach to encourage him to use his unique grazing adaptation. Soon enough, he will return to the gerenuk exhibit, located in the Park’s Heart of Africa, where he can be with his herd.
On September 18, we received a newborn steenbok. This is a small type of antelope found in savanna and arid regions of southern and central Africa. This little one’s mother was being treated at the hospital for an injury and during her stay there she gave birth. The mother was unable to care for her baby due to her injury, and so the baby was brought to the Care Center. Adults average 15 to 30 pounds (6.8 to 13.6 kilograms). Currently our little boy is about 3.6 pounds (1.6 kilograms) and continues to grow bigger and stronger every day. Once he is weaned, he will return to his exhibit, which is located in the Heart of Africa.
Last but definitely not least is a large African antelope called a sable antelope that was brought to us on September 30. She was too weak to survive in the field exhibit, so she is being hand raised. This particular type of antelope species shows sexual dichromatism; this means that the coloration, size, and the presence or absence of parts of the body used in courtship displays or fights, such as ornamental feathers, horns, antlers, or tusks, is different for females and males. Females and young are bright chestnut to dark brown, and mature males turn to chestnut or jet black. Both males and females have beautiful semicircular, ridged horns. Female’s horns can get 2 to 3 feet (0.6 to 0.9 meters) in length, while the male’s get to an impressive 2.6 to 5.5 feet (0.8 to 1.7 meters) long. Our sable baby will return to her herd before her horns get to their maximum size.
Caring for our nursery babies requires a lot of support. Toys and other play items provide essential stimulation and promote proper muscle and brain development for the curious baby that must experiment in order to learn. Enrichment helps us to create an environment that not only serves the developmental needs of our hand-reared babies, it also creates an environment that is just plain fun! If you would like to be a part of helping and enriching our babies, please visit the Adopt an Animal section of our Web site.
Sandy Craig is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read her previous post, Babies, Babies, Babies!