Sitatunga Herd Growing at NC Zoo
ASHEBORO, NC - A second generation has arrived at the North Carolina Zoo. A sitatunga calf, a shaggy-coated antelope species, was born here last week, the offspring of the first sitatunga calf born at the zoo since the opening of the Watani Grasslands Reserve exhibit in early 2008.
The calf's back legs were splayed at birth, making it impossible for her to stand, but pre-set cameras in the stall caught the birth on film, enabling staff members to make quick decisions on the proper care of the calf.
The splaying prevented the calf from getting her back legs underneath her and standing, so staff members hobbled her by tying the two splayed legs together to help strengthen her leg muscles.
By noon the next day, the calf was standing on her own, and the hobbling straps were removed. Zelda, as she was named, is now doing fine and has settled into normal maternal care. The calf will be monitored closely for the next few weeks to ensure that she continues to thrive.
Considered a medium-sized antelope, sitatungas are highly specialized for spending much of their life in the papyrus swamps of Africa. Elongated hooves and flexible foot joints enable them to stand and walk on mud and floating islands of vegetation that would be almost inaccessible to other animals.
They are excellent swimmers and can dive deep enough to submerge their entire body when escaping and hiding from predators, leaving only their nose exposed at the surface.
Although visitors to the Watani Grasslands Reserve can normally see another sitatunga calf on exhibit, it will likely be spring before Zelda can be seen.
The zoo is an agency of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Dee A. Freeman, Secretary; Beverly E. Perdue, Governor.