Baby antelope joy at wildlife park

So cute: The baby antelope at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park.
So cute: The baby antelope at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park.

THIS tiny creature has astounded wildlife experts at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park.

The newborn Sitatunga, or African antelope, took officials by surprise when it arrived at the site in Branton - despite the old age of its mother, who was thought to be way past her breeding years.

But managers at the park say the arrival of the antelope brings fresh hope to the threatened species.

She made her surprise appearance in front of delighted visitors, who were able to witness the special event as the Park’s antelope gave birth unexpectedly, on a hill at the venue.

The baby calf’s birth brings the Park’s resident Sitatunga antelope numbers to three, including the 16-year-old mum, who live at the wetlands where the threatened species has its very own special area.

Cheryl Williams, a director at the park, said: ”The birth of another Sitatunga at the Park is a great blessing.

“We are all so excited as we thought the mother was past an age where she could calf.

“With the continued threat to the species becoming ever more apparent we are so pleased to be here to support the Sitatunga antelopes’ continued existence and their way of life.

“The visitors couldn’t believe it when she arrived in front of them!”

The baby antelope was hidden away initially before being introduced to visitors for the first time aged six days old.

The Sitatunga antelope are one among many species considered to be facing a dire future in the wild if they do not receive help.

The Sitatunga is East Africa’s only true amphibious antelope.

Distinguished by its spiral horns and long, splayed hooves, it is well adapted for walking thorough muddy, vegetated swamplands but can be seen as clumsy on firm terrain.

Its shaggy, oily coat is another adaptation to an aquatic habitat, with the male’s coats being a greyish-brown whilst the female’s are a reddish-chocolate brown.

Though they can be found in small numbers in Saiwa Swamp National Park in Kenya, and around Lake Victoria, the Sitatunga are considered a threatened species, with their own breeding programme in place.