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We are celebrating the birth of Betty Bantu the blesbok

Date: 24 Jul 2018

The latest arrival was born to mother, Ariel and father, Aurthur on 28 May 2018.

The latest arrival was born to mother, Ariel and father, Aurthur on 28 May 2018.

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. For the first few weeks, 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.

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 continues “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. The blesbok is a prime example of conservation in action and the impact that can be made. We first became home to blesbok in 2009. In fact, we were the first zoo in Ireland to breed this species. This success has continued as Betty Bantu is the 11th calf to be born at the zoo. The arrival of Betty Bantu now means that we are now home to five blesbok in total.”

Belfast Zoo is open every day at 10am, last admission is at 5pm and the zoo closes at 6pm. Swing by to visit all of the latest zoo babies, waddle on over to visit the penguins and all of your other favourites at the daily animal feeding times or find out more about the work that the zoo does at the keeper talks.