Daily Talk Forum

Full Version: Out of Czech Republic, back to Africa for endangered antelopes
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
DVUR-KRALOVE-NAD-LABEM, Czech Republic (AFP) - Lili, Demi and Mek, three female antelopes born in a Czech zoo, will soon be set free in Swaziland under a programme to reintroduce endangered species to their African homeland.

"We have already sent more than a hundred animals to Africa, including buffalos, ahead of these roan antelopes," said Martin Smrcek, chief zoologist in this facility near the banks of the Elbe.

Swaziland's last living example of the roan antelope, better known as the horse antelope, or gemsbok in Afrikaans, due to its impressive size and mane, was killed in a trap almost half a century ago in 1961.

The species, which has ringed horns and can reach eight feet long (265 centimetres) and more than five feet high (160 centimetres), still survives in a few South African, Kenyan and Rwandan reserves and a handful of European zoos.

Since the last hipporagus equinus, its Latin name, disappeared, Swaziland has adopted tough conservation laws allowing rangers to open fire on poachers.

The young Czech antelopes, born in 2005 and 2006, will leave this week for the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, where they will join other animals offered by Britain's Marwell zoo in Hampshire, also progeny of Czech-born parents.

"It will be a big change. Here, they have gotten used to being called for their meal," smiled keeper Alena Kellnerova, who has been with antelopes nearly every day since their birth and is saddened by their departure.

Their home up to now at the Dvur-Kralove-nad-Labem "safari park", 100 kilometers (60 miles) northeast of Prague, is a big draw for Czechs with an impressive collection of African animals. The complex says it has some of the biggest groups worldwide of certain species of giraffe, antelope, and rhino.

"Since the end of the 1960s, we have raised 316 young antelopes, which is an extraordinary figure," said Smrcek, a solid 50-year-old wearing a jacket emblazoned with a rhino's head, the zoo's symbol.

Females are of prime importance for the reintroduction program, given that antelope groups are usually headed by a sole, dominant male, which can weigh up to 300 kilograms (660 pounds) and is surrounded by females and young animals.

Lili, Demi and Me face a grueling, two-and-a-half day journey half way around the world, first in a specially adapted lorry to Luxembourg, then a night flight to Pretoria, then another six-hour drive before they can start to smell the bush of the small southern African kingdom.

"We have had to take a thousand precautions, with a series of veterinary examinations, blood tests and medicine to relax them. The horns will be wrapped in a sort of plastic pipe to avoid injury during the trip," explained Zdenek Barta, who is in charge of the animal exchange programme here.

For the Czech zoo, reintroducing endangered species is a core part of its mission. They send the animals to their homeland free of charge, with the cost of transport and follow-up veterinary supervision are picked up by the South African organisation Back to Africa.

The antelopes will face a two-stage reintroduction, initially placed in an enclosure while they get used to the climate with the youngest then allowed to roam freely.

The zoo's public relations chief Jana Mysliveckova said the facility was "proud that a relatively small zoo like ours has breeding facilities of sufficient quality that the animals are sought after in their country of origin."

The zoo is considering ways to broaden the reintroduction programme to other species, such as rhinos.

"For the moment, this is just an idea," said Mysliveckova. "It would be necessary to ensure the safety of the animals and resolve transport problems, which will certainly be very expensive.

"But for some species, that could be the last chance for their survival," she said.
Reference URL's