Rare white antelope born at Paignton Zoo

Published: 22 May 2012

Rare white antelope born at Paignton Zoo

A rare white antelope has been born at Paignton Zoo – the second in two years.

The Kafue Flats lechwe calf was born on 27th April.

Paignton Zoo spokesperson Phil Knowling said: “The lechwe are shy animals in a large paddock and new calves are small and usually quite difficult to see, but being completely white she stands out. She is not a true albino as her eyes are blue not pink, but she is very lovely!”

She is half-sister to Sethunya (meaning blossom, born in May 2010) and only the second surviving white lechwe at Paignton Zoo in over 20 years.

Curator of Mammals and Director of Operations Neil Bemment explained: “Her colouring is due to a double recessive gene. It is a naturally-occurring phenomenon in the wild and makes secretive animals an easy target for predators such that they don’t normally reach breeding age and so the gene is not passed on.”

The Kafue Flats lechwe (Latin name Kobus leche kafuensis) is an antelope found in parts of Botswana, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Namibia, and Angola. It lives on flood plains and grassland. The males set up leks to attract females to their territory on the floodplain and see off rivals. A single youngster is born after a gestation period of 210 days (7 months).

The Kafue Flats lechwe is threatened by hunting and habitat destruction. The species is classed as Vulnerable, meaning it has been categorised by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as likely to become Endangered unless the circumstances threatening its survival and reproduction improve. The Zoo has a small herd made up of a few mature males and now five females.

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