White antelope born in zoo at odds of one million-to-one

June 2, 2010 | by | 0 Comments

Zoo staff are feeling all-white after the birth of this million-to-one – white antelope.

The ”incredibly rare” pure white calf was born at Paignton Zoo in Devon to a brown-furred mother and father.

She has been named Sethunya – from the South African for blossom – because of the flowers around her paddock.

The Kafue Flats lechwe calf arrived on May 23 and her colouring is due to a double recessive gene that only occurs in females.

Paignton Zoo spokesman Phil Knowling said she is not a true albino as her eyes are blue not pink

He said: ”The lechwe are shy animals in a large paddock and she is very small, so she may be difficult to see – but she is white so does stand out.

”She is a naturally-occurring curiosity – and very lovely. In the wild this sort of thing makes animals an easy target for predators and they don’t normally reach breeding age, so the gene is not passed on.

”Zoo animals are more likely to survive but if they bred it would increase the presence of the gene.

”If we ever re-introduced white lechwe into the wild we would be increasing the presence of this undesirable gene.”

The Kafue Flats lechwe – Latin name Kobus leche kafuensis – is an antelope found in parts of Botswana, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Namibia, and Angola.

They live on flood plains and grasslands and a single youngster is born after a gestation period of 210 days.

The lechwe is threatened by hunting and habitat destruction and the species is classed as ‘vulnerable’, meaning it is likely to become endangered unless circumstances improve.

Many white or albino animals lack their protective camouflage and are unable to conceal themselves from predators, so their survival rate in the wild is usually low.

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