Keepers at popular wildlife attraction, Milnthorpe’s Lakeland Wildlife Oasis, have received an early Christmas present, with the unexpected autumn birth of a baby Dik-Dik antelope.
Although the team knew their primary female, Cora, was pregnant, they were not sure how far along. They were alerted thanks to an eagle-eyed, regular visitor, who spotted Cora instinctively hiding the new-born in the bushes.
Now the zoo are planning to celebrate and are already putting in plans to accommodate the new baby being the centre of attention for delighted autumn half term visitors.
“We only introduced Dik-Dik antelopes in 2019, as part of our major new Africa Drylands exhibit,” says zoo manager Grace Jackson. “So to have our first birth- and for it to be a surprise- is thrilling for everyone; once we’d got over the shock!”
Dad Dylan arrived from Twycross Zoo in 2019 aged just six months, next door to other African residents in the specially-designed habitat, like roller birds, crowned cranes, hornbills, and red crested turacos. His Christmas wishes came true when he was joined by girlfriend, and now new mum, Cora in January 2021, followed later that year by friend Delphie.
“Dylan and Cora have reached maturity, but being relatively young and inexperienced, we had no expectations, especially as they kept the whole thing top secret!” says Grace. “When regular visitors, who get to know the animals really well, ran over and excitedly told us they’d seen a baby, we did a real double take!”
With first time mum and brand new baby sheltering from some ‘traditional’ Lake District weather in the bushes, keepers were torn between wanting to make sure the baby was healthy and safe, but not to stress or panic the new family. Cordoning off the area and keeping watch, they were relieved when the pair went inside, to the shelter of their heated ‘bedroom’, where they could be monitored without being disturbed.
With mum, dad and the as yet unnamed and unsexed baby doing well, the zoo will be celebrating over the weekend of 15th-16th October with African-themed information, extra keeper talks, and traditional style food in the café, which proved irresistibly popular at the original launch of Africa Drylands.
“Unlike for example our snow leopards, we don’t have to separate out dad and baby: as herd animals, Dik-Diks naturally look out for each other,” says Grace. “It’s important we still give them space, and baby won’t be sexed by the vet for a few weeks, when we’ll launch our traditional naming competition.
“But they’re already going out and exploring, and our ‘bedroom cam’, linked to a TV outside the enclosure, will ensure great views over the weekend and throughout our Halloween half term events. Everyone loves a new baby, especially this extra-special first birth for Africa Drylands. Perhaps we should call him or her ‘Surprise’!”
Open 10-5 daily, to keep up to date with all the Oasis’ new arrivals, events, and animal antics, see www.wildlifeoasis.co.uk, or ‘Lakeland Wildlife Oasis’ on Facebook.