A baby steenbok being bottle-fed by a zookeeper. Photo courtesy of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park
A baby steenbok being bottle-fed by a zookeeper. Photo courtesy of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Animal care staff at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park are hand-raising a pair of African steenbok born during the summer in an effort to increase the species’ population.

The young members of the antelope family are among only 16 in North America. While the International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the steenbok population as stable in the wild, they note that population surveys of the species are unreliable.

The young steenbok at the Safari Park are being hand-raised, and bottle-fed, to increase their chances of survival and make them calmer, animal keepers said.

“Some of the challenges when hand-raising a hoof-stock animal like a steenbok is they’re naturally very flighty,” said the park’s Lissa McCaffree, “We have to get them to trust us — we have to kind of take over the role of the mom and teach them how to eat.”

The steenbok — visible in the nursery near the village area of the park — are given a bottle of formula several times a day, but animal keepers said the frequency will diminish over time. They’re also being offered hay and trimmings from plants that will be part of their diets as they mature.

Steenbok herd in pairs instead of large groups like other antelope, and their gait includes a kind of bunny hop. The species also has large ears, compared to their body size.

Steenbok are no longer found in some of their native habitat, including Uganda, according to the IUCN.

— City News Service