South West What's On

Trio of 'Unicorn' Calves Born at Longleat

A trio of ‘extinct’ antelope whose extraordinary horns are believed to have been the origin of the unicorn myth have been born at Longleat Safar Park

The scimitar horned oryx calves, two females and a male, were born over the last month and all three are doing well.

Originally from North Africa, the antelope is thought to have gone extinct in the wild in 1999 – due to a combination of hunting and loss of habitat.

The Wiltshire Safari Park is part of an international captive breeding programme for the species with numbers worldwide now thought to be in excess of 1,500.

To date they have successfully reared a total of 16 calves.

Re-introduction programmes are currently taking place in Tunisia, Morocco, Chad and Senegal with captive-bred animals being released into fenced reserves.

The scimitar horned oryx gets its name from its magnificent, scimitar-shaped horn which can measure up to 1.5 metres in length.

Longleat’s Ian Turner said: “The scimitar horned oryx is one of the most iconic types of antelope with these truly magnificent curved horns which are actually quite thin and break off comparatively easily.

“Our captive breeding programme has been extremely successful over the years and all three mums have previously given birth. If all goes according to plan the calves should be fully weaned around 14 weeks after being born,”
he added.

Some experts believe oryx may be the basis for the legendary unicorn. View from the side it can look like the antelope have only a single horn.

As the horns are made from hollow bone they can also break off quite easily and do not grow back – making one horned oryx a relatively common occurrence.

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