Rare antelopes born at Werribee Zoo

The Scimitar-horned oryx calves at Werribee Open Range Zoo. (Supplied/Zoos Victoria).

Two rare Scimitar-horned oryx calves, a species of antelope that is extinct in the wild, have been born at Werribee Open Range Zoo.

The two tan-coloured antelope calves, who were born two weeks ago, are now out and about with their herd.

Werribee Open Range Zoo savannah keeper Gunther Venables said that while it was always exciting to welcome a baby animal, the birth of the Scimitar-horned oryx is particularly special.

“With the species classified extinct in the wild, any Scimitar-horned oryx born at Werribee Open Range Zoo, or in other wildlife organisations around the world, is really significant,” Mr Venables said.

“We’re part of an important global breeding program that aims to maintain genetic diversity to prevent this incredible species from complete extinction.”

Scimitar-horned oryx were once widespread, with an estimated 1 million roaming across North Africa.

However, overhunting, habitat destruction and competition with domestic livestock completely eliminated the antelope from their natural range by the early 1990s.

Today, small populations are protected by wildlife organisations across the world and in fenced reserves.

A reintroduction program has also been established by the government of Chad in collaboration with conservation authorities, with a goal to reinstate a viable population of the species back into the wild.

Mr Venables said Werribee Open Range Zoo’s healthy little oryx calves were settling well into life with all the other animals on the savannah.

“Both the calves laid low in the grass to remain hidden in the first couple of weeks after being born, which is a natural wild behaviour for safety and protection,” he said.

“However, at four weeks of age they are now becoming more active and move with the oryx herd throughout the day – so we’re really excited to watch them as they start to develop their own unique behaviours and personalities.”

Savannah keepers have named the female oryx calf Inarah (pronounced In-a-rah), which means one who shines with light in Arabic – one of the many dialects spoken throughout Africa.

The male oryx calf will be named in the coming weeks.

Werribee Open Range Zoo is presently closed to members and visitors in line with current COVID regulations.

However, animal lovers at home can stay connected with Werribee Open Range Zoo’s lions through Zoos Victoria’s live stream cameras at zoo.org.au/animalsat-home.