Bati, an endangered Speke’s gazelle at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, turns 15 years old tomorrow, May 12. He was born at the St. Louis Zoo in 1995 and is the oldest documented Speke's gazelle living in a zoo. Bati will receive an ‘herbivore’s delight’ consisting of grass, herbs, shrubs and other plants in his yard.
Bati’s caretakers say he’s fearless. He enjoys challenging larger antelope and zebras through fences and refuses to back down from the maned wolves and cheetahs that live in adjacent yards at the Cheetah Conservation Station. Bati also enjoys sparring with bushes, branches, and even his hay. Over many years, Bati sired six calves. His only living offspring, Makale, lives at Florida’s Jacksonville Zoo in Jacksonville, Fla. Makale is 12 ½ years old and is the second oldest Speke’s gazelle male at a U.S. zoo, and the fourth oldest at a zoo anywhere in the world.
Speke’s gazelles live up to 12 years in the wild and are among the smallest gazelles, reaching a maximum shoulder height of only about two feet. Males weigh up to 40 pounds, while females range from 24 to 35 pounds. Male and female Speke's gazelles have a tan back, accented by a white underside and rump, and dark bands on the side. Both sexes have S-shaped horns with upward-curving tips. The horns of the males are noticeably larger and broader than those of the females. Speke's gazelles have an odd but distinctive trait—when they get scared or nervous, they inflate the skin on the tops of their muzzles, amplifying the already loud snorts they use to alert one another of danger. In Africa, poaching and hunting, as well as agricultural development and over-grazing by domestic animals, threaten Speke's gazelles.
The Zoo’s oldest animal is Ambika, a 62-year-old Asian elephant. In 1961, Ambika was given to the National Zoo as a gift from the children of India.