Belfast Telegraph

Pictures: Belfast Zoo celebrates birth of Betty Bantu the blesbok

Belfast Zoo is celebrating the birth of a blesbok calf.

The latest arrival was born to mother, Ariel and father, Aurthur on May 28.

Zoo keepers were giving Ariel and her calf time to bond and have therefore only recently discovered that the arrival is a female who has now been named Betty Bantu, after the African Bantu tribe.

Most other antelope species would hide the young in the surrounding undergrowth to avoid predators but blesbok calves are able to walk and follow their mothers within an hour of being born. 

Males in the group are therefore responsible for warning if a predator is close, by grunting or snorting an early warning to the herd.

Blesbok are a species of antelope and are indigenous to the open grasslands of South Africa. 

They get their name from the word ‘bles’ which in African means ‘blaze’. This refers to the very broad white striped marking on the face. Both males and females have horns which can be up to 38 centimetres long.

Zoo manager, Alyn Cairns, said: “The blesbok was first discovered by settlers in the 17th century and their numbers were said to be so vast that they filled the horizon and as far as the eye could see. 

"However, this antelope was hunted for its skin and meat and by the 19th century, they were facing the very real threat of extinction. Protective and conservation measures have were put in place and the population has since made an impressive recovery, sufficiently increasing to the point that the species has now been removed from the endangered list."

Alyn added: “More species are facing extinction than ever before and it is our responsibility to play an active and vital conservation role to ensure the future survival of species under threat."

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