Rare antelope calves born at Werribee Open Range Zoo
Werribee Open Range Zoo is celebrating the birth of two extremely precious Scimitar-horned oryx calves – a rare species of antelope that is extinct in the wild.
The tan-coloured antelope were born on the Zoo’s Savannah a couple of weeks ago and have now begun exploring their home among the Zoo’s herd of oryx.
Werribee Open Range Zoo Savannah keeper Gunther Venables said it’s always exciting to welcome a baby animal at the Zoo – however the birth of Scimitar-horned oryx is particularly special.
“With the species classified extinct in the wild, any Scimitar-horned oryx born at Werribee Open Range Zoo, or in other wildlife organisations around the world, is really significant,” Mr Venables said. “We’re part of an important global breeding program that aims to maintain genetic diversity to prevent this incredible species from complete extinction.”
Scimitar-horned oryx were once widespread, with an estimated one million roaming across North Africa. However, overhunting, habitat destruction and competition with domestic livestock completely eliminated the antelope from their natural range by the early 1990s.
Today, small populations are protected by wildlife organisations across the world and in fenced reserves in Texas and the UAE. A reintroduction program has also been established by the Government of Chad in collaboration with conservation authorities, with a goal to reinstate a viable population of the species back into the wild.
“With the species classified extinct in the wild, any Scimitar-horned oryx born at Werribee Open Range Zoo, or in other wildlife organisations around the world, is really significant,” Mr Venables said.
Meantime, Mr Venables said Werribee Open Range Zoo’s healthy little oryx calves are settling into life seamlessly with all the other animals on the Savannah.
“Both the calves laid low in the grass to remain hidden in the first couple of weeks after being born, which is a natural wild behaviour for safety and protection,” he said. “However, at four weeks of age they are now becoming more active and move with the oryx herd throughout the day – so we’re really excited to watch them as they start to develop their own unique behaviours and personalities.”
Savannah keepers have named the female oryx calf Inarah [pronounced: In-a-rah], which means one who shines with light in Arabic – one of the many dialects spoken throughout Africa. The male oryx calf will be named in the coming weeks.
Scimitar-horned oryx are identified by their long, arching, backward curving horns, which are ridged and sharp-tipped and grow to greater than a meter in length. Calves are born with small horns covered with hair, which are fully grown by around two years.
Zoos Victoria’s three zoos – Werribee Open Range Zoo, Melbourne Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary – are currently closed to members and visitors in line with current COVIDSafe directions. However, animal lovers at home can stay connected with Werribee Open Range Zoo’s lions through Zoos Victoria’s live stream cameras at zoo.org.au/animals-at-home.