KARACHI: Oryx calf born at city zoo

October 19, 2007

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KARACHI, Oct 18: The Karachi Zoo recently witnessed the first birth on its premises of a male Arabian oryx calf (Oryx leucoryx), a species named endangered by the IUCN Red List. The zoo is looking forward to naming its new guest.

Now ten days old, the calf weighed over 4kg at the age of three days. According to Mansoor Qazi, who is in charge of the zoo, the calf was healthy and was being kept with its mother in a separate enclosure since adult males may attack and kill new-born males. The animals will be reunited in four months once the lactation period ends.

When the mature oryx pair was bought through a tender from a private farm in the city eight months ago, the female was already pregnant and was given food supplements during the remaining gestation period. Mr Qazi claimed that the Karachi Zoo is the only one in Pakistan which currently has specimens of the Arabian oryx, though the Lahore Zoo had a pair some seven years ago. He added that raising the calf was quite a challenge for the zoo.

Native to the desert areas of the Arabian peninsula, Oryx leucoryx were largely extinct in the wild by the 1970s, their numbers decimated by hunters. Various programmes for breeding in captivity were subsequently introduced in the US, the United Arab Emirates and in Saudi Arabia in 1996. However, said Mr Qazi, the survival rate remained low, possibly because of the lack of information about its natural habitat. Prized for its beauty and grace, the vegetarian animal has an average lifespan of 12 to 15 years and females give birth to one calf a year under favourable conditions.