Hopes for 'pitter patter of tiny hooves' at Whipsnade Zoo after antelope saved from extinction

  • Sabre the scimitar horned oryx is settling into his new home in Bedfordshire (Credit: Whipsnade Zoo).

Zookeepers are hoping they will soon hear the "pitter-patter of tiny hooves" and bring a species back from the brink of extinction.

A young male desert antelope - a scimitar horned oryx - has arrived at Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire as part of an international breeding programme for the extinct-in-the-wild species.

Sabre - named after his sword-like horns - has travelled from Aalborg Zoo in Denmark and has been introduced to the herd of nine females.

Gracie Gee, a zookeeper at Whipsnade Zoo, said: “We’re confident he’ll get along with our current all-female herd - and play a vital role in his species future survival.

“Sabre is very graceful and playful. He’s been enjoying chomping away at the grass, as well as tucking into treats of browse and pellets as he gets to know his new home.

"Hopefully it won’t be too long till he gets to know the rest of the herd and we hear the pitter-patter of tiny hooves in the Bedfordshire hills.”

The scimitar horned oryx were re-introduced to the wild in Africa. Credit: Whipsnade Zoo

The scimitar horned oryx species originates from Chad in central Africa, and once thrived in the Achim Game Reserve.

Their numbers plummeted in the 1980s due to being hunted for horns and meat and in 2000 they were declared "Extinct in the Wild" by the IUCN.

Whipsnade Zoo has been taking part in international breeding programmes to ensure the herds remain genetically diverse.

In 2016 and 2017, herds of the species were re-introduced to the wild and descendants of the zoo's oryx are now reproducing in central Africa.

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