San Diego Zoo Safari Park Is Hand-raising African Steenbok Calves to Increase, Diversify Population

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Lissa McCaffree, lead mammal keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, bottle-feeds one of two steenbok calves at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s nursery.

Lissa McCaffree, lead mammal keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, bottle-feeds one of two steenbok calves at the  Park’s nursery.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is bottle-feeding two African steenbok in its nursery, in an effort to increase the population of this antelope species. The Safari Park is home to six of just 16 steenbok in North America. The steenbok calves were born at the Safari Park during summer and have the same father. The calves are fed a bottle of formula several times a day, but these feedings will decrease as they age. They are also offered hay and trimmings from plants that will be part of their diets as they mature.

The Species Survival Plan program for steenbok suggests that animal care staff hand-raise these fragile calves to increase their survival rate, as well as help make them calmer animals. Very little is known about this genus of antelope, which herd in pairs, rather than the large groups that are typical of other antelope species. Steenbok also have a running gait that is more similar to a rabbit’s “hop” than the run of other antelope species; and they have very large ears, in comparison to their body size. The Safari Park hopes to increase the size of the steenbok herd and to learn more about this genus of antelope.

Steenbok are historically found throughout Africa, occupying drier savannas, grasslands and scrublands. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the steenbok population as stable in the wild, but recognizes that they are no longer found in some of their native habitat, including Uganda. Their habitat ranges are becoming widely separated geographically due to habitat changes. The IUCN also notes that population surveys of this species are not reliable.

Guests visiting the San Diego Zoo Safari Park can see the two calves in the nursery, near the village area of the Park. The other steenbok are in an exhibit across from the African Tram Safari station.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is inspiring children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

Photo taken on Oct. 8, 2015, by Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291

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