Twin European elks have been born at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s Highland Wildlife Park. Mum Cas gave birh to the pair which consists of one male and one female during May.
Young elk will spend their first few weeks laying low in the grasses to escape dangers they are able to run confidently soon after birth though. Now that they are a month old the calves are beginning to explore their exhibit.
Head Hoofstock Keeper for RZSS Highland Wildlife Park, Morag Sellar said, “The twins are doing well. They were born after a gestation period of around eight months, so it is nice to see them out and about with their mother, who keeps dad at a distance for now. The species is not of conservation concern now as it has expanded its wild range following excessive hunting in the 19th century, but as an extinct UK species, we feel it is important that we give our visitors the opportunity to see this enormous former inhabitant of our forests.”
“European elk have generally proven to be difficult to keep in good health in captivity, so we are very pleased to see that our attention to detail, especially their diet, has once again paid-off,” added Sellar.
It is rare that twins are born to this species. Some difficulty can be encountered when maintaining elk in captivity and this has seen poor breeding results in zoos. Luckily the RZSS has had success breeding this species. Last week RZSS Highland Wildlife Park was acknowledged for their captive husbandry of the European elk receiving a silver award at BIAZAs (British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums) ‘Zoo Oscars’.
Sellars explained, “Over the next five months the twins will learn the ropes from mum Cas and dad Bob and will continue to suckle while they learn to forage, eventually growing to an impressive ten times their birth size. As one of the largest living deer species, these mammals can grow to be around two metres tall and males can weigh up to 720kg, so the babies have a lot of growing to do!”
European elk have not been seen in Scotland since 3,000-.7.000 years ago. They remain in Scandinavia and Northern Russia. They are good swimmers and will often forage in ponds.
Photo Credit: Royal Zoological Society of Scotland