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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Belfast Zoo welcomes Buttercup - a new baby Blesbok

Blesbok mum and calf at Belfast Zoo

Belfast Zoo was overjoyed on the 23rd of May with the birth of a new baby Blesbok. Buttercup was born to proud parents, Prosper and Bluebell, with mother and daughter are both thriving.

Belfast Zoo was the first zoo in Ireland to breed blesbok, and is home to seven blesboks after the latest arrival. 

Females give birth to a single calf per breeding season. Unlike other antelopes, females give birth within the herd (babies become part of the group from the moment of birth) after an eight-month gestation. Calves are not hidden but accompany their mothers from birth. Young blesboks are beige coloured and have dark coloured "blaze" on the face.

Blesbok calves can walk and follow their mothers within half an hour of being born. They are weaned by about 4 months.

The blesbok is a subspecies of the bontebok antelope endemic to South Africa, Eswatini, and Namibia. It’s easy to distinguish them with a single glance. The vivid white forehead is more like a horse than an antelope and the V-shaped horns are beautiful to behold.

When Dutch settlers came to South Africa, they named these antelope bles, a word that translates as the “blaze” seen on a horse’s forehead.

Blesbok are found in open grassland and prefer habitats with water They have a medium-sized body, short tail, and S-shaped, spiral horns, and can run up to 43 miles per hour to avoid predators!

Zoo curator, Linda Frew said:

“We are very happy with the birth of Buttercup, it’s always a special day when there is a new arrival in the zoo. Blesbok first came to Belfast Zoo in 2008 and we have been delighted with the steady increase of the herd.”

Blesbok were hunted for their skin and for meat and by the 19th century they were on the verge of extinction. Protective measures have since been put in place and the population has sufficiently increased to the point that the species has been removed from the endangered list. 

Visit Buttercup in her Belfast Zoo home beside the Colombian Spider monkeys!


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