Rare Endangered Twins Born At Salina Zoo

A rare birth at Rolling Hills Zoo on Sunday was followed by an even more rare result.

On Sunday, Aameria, a critically endangered Addax antelope, went into labor. General Curator Peter Burvenich tells KSAL News that the birth was relatively normal, until a second set of hooves appeared. Aameria surprisingly, and unexpectedly, gave birth to male / female twins.

Burvenich says that Aameria was a little bigger than usual during her pregnancy, but there was no reason to believe that she was expecting twins. “Twins in hoof-stock, particularly a species like an Addax, are very rare,” he said.

Twins in this species are so rare, that the chances of having them are astronomical against it. Zoo staff did some research, and found out that the chances of an Addax having twins were less than a half percent. “We believe that there was a 0.4 percent chance of twins,” Burvenich said.

And amazingly even more rare, both twins survived.  According to Burvenich, they cannot find another documented case where Addax twins both survived. He said that in the wild, the weaker of the twins has virtually no chance of survival. In captivity, the chances are not much better.

Rolling Hills Zoo Veterinarian Danelle Okeson tells KSAL News that while they are “not quite out of the woods just yet,” the prognosis for both twins looks good. She says that the primary concern was that for a variety of possible reasons, there was the potential that Aameria would reject one of the twins. They feared for the female, the second calf born.

The female calf is smaller, and weaker. While her brother was able to get up and walk within a couple hours of birth, the little female was not. Aameria did pay attention to both twins, but she focused more on the male. “For the first 24 hours we had staff constantly monitoring the female, around the clock, and provided her with supplemental nutrients,” Okeson said.

Things started looking up Monday afternoon, when the female finally stood up, and began to nurse from Aameria. By Tuesday afternoon, both twins were nursing normally. Though there is not as much concern as there was, zoo staff is still closely monitoring the new family.

Burvenich explained that the Addax, native to Africa, is a critically endangered species. It is estimated that less than 300 still survive in the wild. Beginning in the late 1800s the species became over-hunted. Its long majestic horns made it desirable to hunters, and poachers, for multiple reasons. While the species is nearly extinct in the wild, it is more common in captivity.

Zoo visitors can already see Aameria, the twins, and their father Ajax. All are currently on display at Rolling Hills Zoo.

The new twins don’t have names just yet. “We kind of want to see how things go before we start thinking about names,” Burvenich said.

Okeson has been at Rolling Hills Zoo since 2008, and Burvenich has been there since 2011. Both have seen multiple births, but nothing quite like this. “This one is pretty special,” Okeson concluded.


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