Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Tiny antelope's big impact at zoo

Tim Rowlands takes Kirk's dik-dik antelope Aluna to work with him
A Chester Zoo keeper is hand-rearing a baby Kirk's dik-dik antelope
Tim Rowlands at home with a Kirk's dik-dik antelope which was unable to bond with her mother

She is just a few inches tall but Chester Zoo's newest arrival, Aluna the Kirk's dik-dik antelope, is already making a big impression.

The youngster, who was born two weeks ago, is being bottle-fed by her keeper after she was unable to bond with her mother.

Aluna, who stands 8in (22cm) high, will be given a helping hand until she is old enough to tuck into a diet of buds, shoots and fruit on her own.

Playing "parent" to the zoo's tiny new addition is keeper Tim Rowlands.

He said: "Our little one is growing stronger and stronger by the day and, all being well, it shouldn't be too long until she'll be able to really hold her own.

"For the time being her feed times are staggered through the day and she has her first bottle in my living room at home at around 7am. I then pop her into the car and bring her to work where she has another three feeds in my office. Finally, her last one is at 10pm back at my house.

"She's already pretty quick on her feet and gives us quite the run-around in the office. That's why we've called here Aluna which means 'come here' in Swahili. It's rather appropriate."

Aluna weighed just 25oz (700g) at birth but is getting stronger every day and now weighs around 2lb 10oz (1.2kg), a little more than a bag of sugar.

Kirk's dik-dik are one of the world's smallest antelope species and live in a variety of habitats such as woodlands and grasslands in Kenya, Tanzania and Namibia.

The animal gets its name from the noise it makes when running for cover. They can live for up to 10 years and reach a maximum height of just 16in (40cm).

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