How do you train a lesser kudu?
All of our lesser kudu are trained to step on a scale to obtain monthly weights. We also train them to recall into the stall with the sound of a dog squeaker toy. We try to keep lesser kudu together in herds, but there are times that individuals may need to be separated and alone.
For example, since Toba and Kushu are males, we will not be able to house them with Rogue permanently, so we condition everyone to spend time in the stall alone. We will feed each of them in separate stalls and work towards prolonging the separation time. This helps them acclimate to being alone.
We are still working with Rogue, Kushu and Toba on becoming more comfortable with their animal keepers. Kushu and Toba are making progress and once they are comfortable, we’ll be able to do additional training, like we do with Garrett.
Garrett will let us touch him at any time. We can clean his ears, brush him, apply medicine when needed and do hoof trims a few times a week. In the future, we would love for him to keep his foot up on a platform to help with these trimmings.
Rogue is still very nervous around people, so she does not choose to participate in as many training sessions as our male kudu do. To help increase her comfort and build her trust in us, we’ll approach her within a few feet in the exhibit and offer her favorite leafeater biscuits as a treat.
How are the lesser kudu’s interactions with the Abyssinian ground hornbills?
Our two Abyssinian ground hornbills, male Karl and female Karoline, cohabitate very well with our lesser kudu herd. We introduce our lesser kudu calves to our hornbills when they are just a few months old. This way, the kudu are used to seeing Karl and Karoline and learn early on how to interact.
Karoline likes to get herself in the middle of all activity. If the lesser kudu get startled and run off, she may be ruffled by the mini stampede. She and Kushu seem to get along really well and will hang out together. We often find them laying in the sun close to each other.
The hornbills love bugs, so they sometimes pluck insects off the lesser kudu. We have also seen the lesser kudu bow their heads at the hornbills, but that’s just a way for the kudu to tell the hornbills to give them space. The hornbills understand this and usually walk away.
What are some simple steps folks can do at home to help lesser kudu and other wild animals?
The greatest threat to lesser kudu, and many other wild animals, is habitat loss. Wildlife corridors are one way to combat some of the habitat loss because they connect areas of habitat that are disrupted by man-made structures, like highways.
Supporting conservation organizations is one of the best ways to help lesser kudu and other wild animals. This includes conservation organizations that help with reserving habitat for wildlife to zoos! Zoos are sometimes major contributors to small conservation projects, so a portion of your admission or purchase can directly help fund a wildlife conservation project.
This story appears in the February 2021 issue of National Zoo News. The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute is temporarily closed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. By making a donation, you help support vital conservation research, improve animal habitats and provide enrichment items that enhance our animals’ well-being. Donate today!