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Bontebok Calf Saved by Vets and Keepers at Oregon Zoo

Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: March 14, 2022 10:01 pm

Bontebok Calf Oregon Zoo

A female bontebok calf born at the Oregon Zoo survived with the assistance of keepers when her mom failed to nurse her following the birth

Photo Credit: Oregon Zoo

Keepers and vets at the Oregon Zoo have ensured the survival of a rare bontebok calf by stepping in when her mother failed to nurse the calf soon after its birth.


Spirits were initially high when 7 year old bontebok, Winter entered labor on February 2nd 2022 at the zoo. Unfortunately this changed quickly as it became apparent that inexperienced mother, Winter was not nursing her infant.


“She was taking care of her calf right away,” said Kelly Gomez, who oversees the zoo’s Africa section. “But she just wasn’t nursing. Sometimes new moms need a little help getting started.”


At birth the calf appeared healthy but as it did not nurse it had not received colostrum which provides the antibodies needed to fight infections. To compensate for this vets undertook a plasma transfusion using plasma gathered from the calf's father.


“We were giving her supplemental bottle-feedings and then returning her back to mom,” Gomez said. “After a few days, Winter started to nurse her a little bit, and we gradually reduced the bottle-feedings as the nursing became more consistent. She’s a very strong, robust little calf.”

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At present the calf is being cared for in a behind the scenes area. It will not make its public debut until the weather warms up.

Bontebok as a species have been rescued from a decline in their population. Over the 18th and 19th century this species was hunted to near extinction. They were seen as a pest of farmland.

Numbers fell as low as 17 in 1937 when a group of forward thinking farmers placed them within a fenced pen. As this species cannot jump they remained inside the pen safe from hunters.

“A couple hundred years ago, the bontebok was headed for almost certain extinction,” Gomez said. “The fact that they are still around shows how people can make a difference in helping wildlife.”

Though unfamiliar to most Americans today, the bontebok “deserves a place in the annals of conservation history,” according to The Nature Conservancy’s Matt Miller. 

“It is arguably the first African animal saved from human-caused extinction,” said Miller, writing in the conservancy’s science blog. “Its rescue is flat-out one of the most dramatic conservation success stories anywhere.”

Learn more about Bonteboks here – Bontebok Fact File | The Animal Facts

Learn more about the Oregon Zoo on their website – Oregon Zoo

A female bontebok calf born at the Oregon Zoo survived with the assistance of keepers when her mom failed to nurse her following the birth

Video Credit: Oregon Zoo

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