'Virgin' Eland Birth Mystery Solved
Keepers at the Oakland Zoo in California were surprised when a female eland, Etana, gave birth to a bouncing baby daughter a few weeks ago. Why the surprise? The zoo only has female elands. Since November, Etana has been living with two other females in a large African Veldt exhibit.
(Mother and calf; Credit for all images: Oakland Zoo, Julie Hartell-Denardo)
When news of the birth first broke, public speculation rested on three scenarios:
Etana experienced a virgin birth. Hey,
A male from another species in the exhibit partnered with Etana. Elands have, for example, mated before with Greater Kudus (a type of woodland antelope).
Etana was knocked up before she arrived at the Oakland Zoo.
As it turns out, elands have a 9 month gestation period, similar to that of humans. Shortly before Etana was brought to the Oakland Zoo from her former San Diego Zoo home, she must have mated with a male.
The result of that pairing is a healthy and precocious female calf named Bali, who was up on all 4 legs and nursing within 30 minutes of being born.
According to keepers at the zoo, common elands "tuck" during the
first 10 to 14 days after birth, with calves lying extremely still and
hidden in vegetation to hide from predators. So although Bali could march around and nurse, she spent most of her first days hidden, curled up in a tiny little ball in a big straw bed.
At 6 days old, she started to munch on solid food. At 13 days old, she was introduced to her aunties, Bella and Kashka, along with other animals in the Veldt exhibit. She's now galloping and leaping, as she explores the waterfalls and other features in her environment. Adult elands have been clocked at speeds up to 42 miles per hour and can jump over 5 feet high.