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Christmas arrivals at Marwell Zoo

An addax calf at Marwell Zoo in Hampshire

A pair of cute new arrivals are settling in at the zoo following the arrival of a tiny addax calf and a special Christmas Day delivery in sitatunga form.

Both new arrivals have had their initial checks and are reported to be doing well with the addax confirmed as male and the sitatunga is female

Marwell’s Hoofstock team are looking after both animals who are growing in confidence, feeding well and venturing out with their parents when the weather allows.

Addax are critically endangered with only 30 – 90 mature individuals thought to survive in the wild so Marwell’s new addition is incredibly important to the future of this rare species.

The calf, who has been named Phoenix, was born to mother Amelie and father Tamarisk, on 12 December last year.

He was the second Addax to be born at the zoo in 2023 following the birth of Hanza, Phoenix’s brother earlier in the year.

Marwell’s addax are named after African plants with hanza being a plant in the caper family that bears edible fruit and phoenix is a type of palm.

Sophie Wythe, Assistant Animal Keeper, said: “Phoenix is our second calf of 2023 born to mum Amelie and dad Tamerisk, which is a huge success for Marwell.

“Addax are Critically Endangered with less than 100 individuals left in the wild, so Phoenix will have a vital role in protecting this species from extinction.

“Phoenix is an evergreen tree found in North Africa. Phoenix’s name was chosen to follow the plant theme naming after his father Tamerisk and brothers Ephedra and Hanza.

“Phoenix is already turning into a very mischievous, confident young individual. He enjoys running around outside in the paddock and causing chaos!

“He is doing well and we are all excited to see him grow into a handsome male.”

In the wild, addax live mainly in the Sahara where they have been hunted to near extinction. Their meat, horns and hide are prized by hunters and their habitat has been eroded as a result of oil exploration and cattle farming.

Over in the zoo’s sitatunga house, expecting mother Violet had a very special Christmas Day delivery when her new addition arrived.

Erin Luter, Assistant Animal Keeper at Marwell, said: “The new arrival was born late Christmas Eve, early Christmas Day and has now been confirmed as a female.

“She is doing well and has been seen running around the paddock under the watchful eye of mum violet and dad Tumnus.

“Although the sitatunga have access to a heated building the calf can often be seen outside in the paddock enjoying the winter sun with the rest of the herd, including her brother Dubu who is only two months old.”

Our growing herd of sitatunga are vital for the conservation of this species due to their decreasing number in the wild. Every birth, like this soon to be named female, plays a key part in protecting this species through ex situ breeding programmes.

Father Tumnus has had lots of practice at fatherhood having sired three calves in 2023 including Violet’s older calf, Kamari in April.

In the wild sitatunga are regarded as particularly elusive animals and they have some very endearing features including their Bambi-like eyes and ears.

Their coats are fluffy like wool and are actually waterproof, their splayed banana shaped hooves prevent them from sinking in boggy conditions and perhaps surprisingly, given how awkward their walk looks, they’re very good swimmers.