In late January, Lee Richardson Zoo’s two female addaxes each gave birth to healthy male calves. The birth of two addax calves is an exciting moment for many reasons.
Addax belong to the family group Bovidae and like other herbivores, keeping their nose to the ground to graze on plants puts them at risk of predation. Once an addax goes into labor, the risk of harm to her or her calf increases dramatically. The mother’s reduced mobility during labor makes it more likely that predators, such as lions or African wild dogs, will take advantage of hunting the animal when it is most vulnerable. As soon as the calf is on the ground, it is essential for the calf to get to its feet as quickly as possible.
Newborn animals standing for the first time might not be swift or graceful, but they are on their feet long before a human child ever is. Every individual is different, but most addax calves will be standing within the first hour or so of life.
Once the newborn babies were on their feet at Lee Richardson Zoo, each mom was caring for her calf and allowing her baby to nurse. The first few sips of milk the calf receives are colostrum, the first form of milk made by the mammary glands, and contain a high level of antibodies to help protect the baby from disease.
If you’ve ever watched a newborn calf, of any species, get to its feet for the first time and nurse, you will appreciate how special that experience is. Now, take into consideration that these calves are from a critically endangered species, making this moment even more special.
In 2016, the IUCN Red List classified addax as critically endangered. It is thought that there are somewhere between 30 to 90 individuals left in the wild. Unfortunately, the small population found in Chad and Niger are still declining, primarily due to human impact.
Habitat loss is a major factor limiting addax population size, as farming or drilling for oil and gas continue to reduce possible habitat available to wild populations. Additionally, poaching is taking a toll on the population. Civil unrest in the region has caused locals to hunt the species for food.
It might seem like there is nothing we can do locally to protect these endangered animals, but there is.
The calves are standing tall for their species, representing their wild counterparts and inspiring southwest Kansas to care about them, too. If seeing the baby boys inspires you to want to act, consider donating to conservation groups like Sahara Conservation Fund by visiting their website, www.saharaconservation.org. This organization is working to protect the wildlife and wild places of the Sahara, as well as running programs geared toward helping the people of the region.
While the baby addax stand tall and represent their species, we hope you’ll stand with them to protect wildlife beyond our backyard. By supporting organizations like the Sahara Conservation Fund, you are working with Lee Richardson Zoo to protect wildlife globally.
Catie Policastro is the education specialist at Lee Richardson Zoo.