Rare ellipsen waterbuck calf explores habitat - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Rare ellipsen waterbuck calf explores habitat

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - An ellipsen waterbuck calf born earlier this month at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park ventured out into his exhibit with his mother Friday.

Luke, born Sept. 6, is easy to spot because he's almost all white -- a rarity for the species.

The calf is one of nearly 300 ellipsen waterbucks born at the facility over the years, but Luke is the first to have leucism, a condition that causes an animal to have reduced pigmentation.

Park officials said ellipsen, or common, waterbuck are recognizable by a bull's eye or ellipse-shaped ring on their rump. In Luke's case, the bull's eye is a brown ring on a white body, rather than a white ring on a brown body.

In the wild, an animal with leucism is an easy target for prey as it stands out, unable to camouflage itself. Since Luke was born at the Safari Park, he has a good chance of survival as animal care staff can keep close watch on him, animal keepers said.

Typical of waterbuck, Luke's mother protected her calf by tucking him amongst the rocks in their habitat for his first two weeks while she rejoined the herd, returning to nurse him several times a day. Once he was strong enough, she allowed the calf to venture out with her to meet their herd and the 10 other animal species sharing the South Africa habitat, including rhinos,

wildebeests and eland.

Keepers said the other animals have been curious about the calf, but his mother, father and other members of the waterbuck herd keep a close watch on the youngster.

Ellipsen waterbuck are found in grasslands and woodland areas ranging from central Kenya to northern Botswana and eastern South Africa, within reach of bodies of water. Zoo officials said waterbucks are not aquatic but can hide in water from predators when necessary.

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