Securing a shared future for wildlife and people

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18 July 2008

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Vet nurses at Taronga Western Plains Zoo have been playing mother to an orphaned male Scimitar Horned Oryx whose mother died during labour leaving Zoo staff no alternative but to hand raise the calf.

Over the past month vet nurses have been regularly bottle feeding Bou, named after a river system where the species comes from in Africa, ensuring he continues to grow and develop as normal.

"Bou has been growing quickly and is already showing signs of a true male Oryx - kicking his legs into the air and trying to spar with his little horns," said VQC Supervisor, Jane Burgess.

To ensure Bou learns the essential social behaviours he needs to interact with other animals, therefore the Zoo's vet nurses have placed a male goat kid in with him as a companion to encourage specific animal behaviours he needs to co-exist with other Oryx.

"The pair is getting along really well, they both enjoy playing with each other and are becoming good close companions," said Jane.

The goat kid will act as the Oryx's companion until the spring time when he will be introduced back to the Scimitar Horned Oryx herd on exhibit, at which time the goat will be retired to a farm.

"It is quite a responsibility acting as the mother of an Oryx calf and a goat kid but the team is working well together to ensure both animals are fed at the set times each day and the needs of both different species of animal are provided," said Jane.

"Bou is a very important animal as the Oryx species in the wild are critically endangered and being a male means his genetics are very important in the breeding program for this species here at Taronga Western Plains Zoo and the regional breeding program," said Jane.

Taronga Western Plains Zoo is the first institution in the Australasian region to hand raise a Scimitar Horned Oryx calf.

Scimitar Horned Oryx (Oryx dammah): inhabit very arid and semi-desert areas.  Formerly found over most of Northern Africa, the Scimitar Horned Oryx is presently extinct north of the Sahara with the only wild population known to exist today in Chad.  The Scimitar Horned Oryx is a member of the antelope family and have a very pale coat with a brown colour on their chest and neck.  Their horns, which are shaped like scimitar swords, are used to establish dominance in a herd and for defence.  The species has undergone long term decline because of climatic changes, uncontrolled hunting by people and agricultural encroachment.

Taronga Western Plains Zoo is open everyday from 9am - 4pm (exit gates close at 5pm).  For more information about the Zoo contact 02 6881 1400 or visit

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