NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Africa Field at the Nashville Zoo resembles the Savanna in Africa. And it’s also where one of the zoo’s newest additions resides.

The zoo introduced Rhoden, a bontebok, which is an antelope native to South Africa.

“We have a male bontebok calf,” explained Morgan Fontenot, Nashville Zoo Hoofstock Keeper. “He was born on May 6th. So he’s about a month and a half old.” She added he is his mom’s first calf.

Luckily, Rhoden had a normal birth at the zoo, and bottle feeding wasn’t necessary. Fontenot said he is progressing along nicely.

“Rhoden knows to go to his mom when he’s hungry,” Fontenot said. “He is slowly starting to eat solid foods, meaning grass because they are big grazers. That’s the primary portion of their diet, especially in the wild.”

Fontenot said they also eat grass hay and grain.

Since the Africa Field exhibit is also home to zebras, eland, and ostriches, Rhoden has to be carefully introduced to his fellow animals. So far, he is only in the field with his mom, one other female, and an ostrich.

“He was born at only eighteen pounds which is normal for a bontebok calf,” Fontenot explained. “But we want him to be a little bit larger, so that when we are introducing him to this mixed-species exhibit, especially with our zebras and our eland which are larger animals. He kind of has a whereabouts to his boundaries, where his mom will be. He’s a little bit smarter and hopefully will stay calm if any of those animals get too close to him and start to investigate.”

Bontebok are native to South Africa, and in the early 1900s, they were almost extinct with only seventeen individuals left. Now their population is around three thousand.

Fontenot shared an interesting story on how they began a comeback.

“Their species, as a whole, was saved by a sheep farmer who built a fence around his land'” Fontenot said. “And being that bontebok cannot jump high, they could not clear that fence, and they were in turn protected, and they were able to re-populate.”

A good time to visit the Africa Field at the Nashville Zoo is right after they open from around 9:15 to 9:30 in the morning. That’s when they shift the animals from their evening holdings back out onto the field. They are usually excited to be back.

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