The Animal Facts Editorial Team
February 23, 2023 10:30 am
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Columbus, Ohio
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium have introduced the first baby animals born at the zoo during 2023, a trio of dama gazelle calves. The dama gazelle is the rarest species of gazelle. Born during January and February the calves are all thriving under their mother’s care despite a rocky start to life for some.
The births are the result of recommendations from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan® (SSP). This program aims to ensure the populations of threatened species in managed care are healthy and genetically diverse.
The first calf both for the zoo and mother Kix arrived on January 21, 2023. The father of this calf was Zabili. Animal Health and Care teams from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium conducted a wellness exam the following day and noted the calf had a high temperature. To combat a potential infection, she received a catheter and was treated with antibiotics, plasma, and meloxicam. Three days later the calf was cleared and Kix has continued to be an attentive mother to her calf.
Experienced mother Susie welcomed her calf on January 31, 2023 with father Zultan. During their normal monitoring of the calf keepers did not observe nursing. To ensure the calf could thrive the region curator stepped in to provide a bottle feed for the calf. It quickly latched to the bottle and shortly after was seen to nurse from mom. Following this shaky start the calf is described as ”playful and spunky.” Keepers report that she takes after her mother who was an active calf that liked to run.
The final calf in this baby boom was a male born on February 7 2023 to mother Raisin and father Zabili. This calf was observed to occasionally splay which can lead to risks later in life. In a proactive effort to ensure the heath of the calf it was fitted with a hobble” system on his back legs to help provide support and stabilization while he built his strength. This was removed after a few days and the calf is not healthy and thriving.
“Since Heart of Africa opened in 2014, we’ve welcomed 14 dama gazelle calves, and every birth is special and important to the survival of this rare species,” said Shannon Borders, curator of the Columbus Zoo’s Heart of Africa region. “While the dama can weigh up to 165 pounds and is the largest of all gazelle species, the small calves sometimes require additional care and medical attention when they’re first born. We’re proud of the dedication and expertise of our care teams, who stepped in to help ensure that the calves have what they need for their health and overall wellbeing. Already, they’re almost as fast as the adults, and guests will soon have the opportunity to learn more about the species while observing them on our savanna.”
Keepers are yet to decided on names for the calves. At present they are spending their time bonding in a behind the scenes area of the Heart of Africa habitat. At present Heart of Africa is closed to guests for Winter but will reopen in Spring.
Dama gazelles are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species™. Their numbers are declining as a result of overgrazing, land development and hunting across their range.
When gazelles run they may launch their whole body in to their air with all four feet leaving the ground for a time. This behavior is known as stotting.
Image: © Grahm S. Jones/ Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
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