Lee Richardson Zoo welcomed a male addax calf the morning of February 13, 2013. The healthy fifteen pound male was born to the zoo’s breeding pair, Joy and Moe, who are both on breeding loan to LRZ. Although the baby was born on exhibit and spent all day Wednesday in the African Plains yard in pleasant weather, cooler temperatures during subsequent nights and days motivated staff to move the baby and mother inside for warmth. The calf is a welcome addition as it provides hope for the critically endangered wild addax population. Fewer than 300 are thought to remain in the wild. 13 captive-bred addax were released in Tunisia in 2007 in an effort to re-establish the species in its native habitat.
Native to the Sahara Desert, addax are well adapted to the harsh desert climate. They survive on the sparse vegetation that appears after meager rains, and can go for weeks to months without actually drinking water. Their body temperature increases several degrees during the heat of the day to delay sweating and reduce water loss. Broad hooves support their stocky body while walking on soft sand. The species has long been threatened by poaching, severe droughts, and from the hazards of living in a perpetual war zone.
The birth was the result of a breeding recommendation by the Addax Species Survival Plan, or SSP, and was the second baby for this pair. SSP’s coordinate captive breeding efforts of rare and endangered species among accredited zoos, where captive populations serve as a hedge against extinction. These cooperative programs involve zoos from around the globe, with the goal of maintaining healthy, genetically diverse captive populations.