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Meet the Zoo’s New Kudu Calf

  • Lesser kudu female Rogue with her newborn male calf behind the scenes at the Zoo’s Cheetah Conservation Station. 

On Oct. 15, the Zoo welcomed a bouncing baby to its lesser kudu family! The new (and adorable) arrival, a male, was born to 5-year-old mother Rogue and 9-year-old father, Garrett. This past week, he joined his mom and brother, Kushukuru, on exhibit for the first time. Get the scoop on the calf from Gil Myers, assistant curator for Cheetah Conservation Station. 

How is the calf doing?

He is fantastic and quite the adventurer! The very first week we let him outside, he was very brave and even ventured away from Rogue and Kushukuru (or "Kushu," for short) into the center of the yard to inspect the plants and trees. While he was off exploring his surroundings, his mom and brother hung toward the back of the exhibit, where they could hide among some of the taller bushes in the yard. Eventually, he noticed that they were back there and ran over to join them, but the fact that he felt comfortable enough to explore on his own, even for a short period, is encouraging. He is only 7 weeks old and is becoming more independent by the day. 

What is his personality like?

Hoofstock — antelopes and gazelles — tend to be very cautious around people. We want the calf to be comfortable around us, so we spend a fair amount of time around him while maintaining a comfortable distance. Building his trust in us will allow us to train him to voluntarily participate in his own daily care down the road. Whenever we enter the yard, he is very curious about what we are doing and watches our every move! Kushu routinely approaches us and will stand about 10 feet away — but that is because he knows we have treats. 

Kudu calf born October 2019

Do the brothers play together?

Yes! They run circles around each other. And, they spar with one another. Kushu’s horns just started growing in recent months, and they are only a few inches long. Of course, our little guy doesn’t have any horns yet. Because they are both males, they have that natural instinct of wanting to spar and butt heads. They aren’t really fighting, it’s just play behavior. We also see them rub their heads against logs, bushes and tree trunks. Garrett will do this, too. He will rub his horns in the grass and the mud so that all of that clings to his horns and gives him more of a presence. It may be a way of telling other males “my horns are more impressive than yours!”

Kudu calf born October 2019

Is the calf nursing?

Yes, the calf is still nursing. However, we have seen him eating solid foods as well, including pellets, browse (thin, leafy branches), alfalfa hay and leaf eater biscuits. When the calf was younger, he would nibble them in small amounts. Now, he eats pellets right alongside the adults. Calves typically nurse anywhere from four to six months — it just depends on when mom decides it is time for them to wean. 

Has he met Garrett?

The calf has met his dad through a mesh “howdy” fence between their enclosures, but they have not shared the same space yet. Usually within a month of parturition, a female kudu can come into estrus and begin cycling again. That is exactly what happened with Rogue. We are waiting to hear from the Species Survival Plan whether or not Garrett and Rogue will have another breeding recommendation. Meantime, we are keeping the calf solely with his mom. Kushu splits his time between being with dad and being with mom and little brother. Since Rogue is currently cycling, Garrett is much more focused on her than he is on either of his sons.

Kudu calf born October 2019

Has the calf met the Abyssinian ground hornbills?

Just like with Garrett, Karl and Karoline have met the calf via howdy access, but they have not shared the same exhibit space yet. We are waiting for him to be a bit bigger. That way, if the hornbills show an interest in him, he will have the size and strength to move away quickly if need be. Karoline, especially, is going to be very curious about him and will likely try to get a closer look — that’s just her inquisitive personality. 

Got any tips for viewing the kudu calf?

Typically, the calf is on exhibit between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., weather permitting. He is most active when they first have access to the yard, so late morning is going to be visitors’ best chance to see him play with his brother. On chilly days, we leave the door to their heated barn open, so they have the option to stay inside. But, the last few cold days haven’t seemed to deter him from exploring his surroundings.

This story appears in the December 2019 issue of National Zoo News. Planning a visit to see the new kudu? Check out the daily programs calendar for keeper talks and animal demonstrations.