NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Murray, an eland, is one of Nashville Zoo’s newest babies now seen on exhibit at Africa Field.
“So far, Murray has really enjoyed his time on the field,” said Jenna Wolczyk, hoofstock keeper. “We’ve seen him running around interacting with our bontebok and female ostrich on the field at the moment.”
Wolczyk said it takes time to introduce new animals to the field. “We want to make sure everyone gets along really well, so we want to give them smaller times together or alternate days so everyone stays safe in the field.”
The six-week-old calf has not been introduced to the male ostrich or the zebra just yet.
“Murray has been a very social little guy,” Wolczyk continued, “He is very aware of when the bottle times are. He comes calling for it. We see him get excited for that. And he has started eating solids with mom.”
Murray eats sweet potatoes, carrots, natural hay and grasses. Wolczyk said he also likes hackberry leaves just like his mom.
Murray brings up the total of elands at the zoo to four. There are two females, Indigo and Violet. And now, two males, Oaker and Murray.
“Indigo is a first time mom. And, Oaker, our male, he’s the first male eland that we’ve had here. It was pretty exciting when we saw breeding behaviors between them, and then a confirmed pregnancy,” said Wolczyk.
Typically the zoo keepers and veterinary staff stay hands off during labor.
“We do encourage natural births and breeding behaviors,” she explained, “If we don’t have to intervene, then that’s the best idea. We’d just love to have them do their natural thing.”
However, the first time mom needed a little help. “We had been monitoring his mom, Indigo, for quite a while. Checking on if she had bagged up with milk; if she was close to labor. We saw some signs of distress, so we took her up to the vet hospital.”
Wolczyk said they monitored Indigo for 24-hours, and when she still had not given birth they assisted in the labor.
Indigo has also received help nursing her baby boy. “Being a first time mom, things are a little bit hesitant, so we have helped her out with some bottle feedings.”
Wolczyk said the staff takes extra precautions to make sure the calf does not imprint on them. “We’re going to where different clothing than what we normally wear on a day-to-day basis. We’re going to try and give minimal vocal interaction with him and physical interaction.”
Elands are native to the grasslands of Southeastern Africa. While they aren’t endangered, they are still hunted.
“Humans do use them for food sources, milk as well as their meat, and skins for leather. So, they are considered a valuable asset around the communities,” said Wolczyk.
The Nashville Zoo eland take part in a Species Survival Plan to ensure a diverse captive population, which means Murray will be sent to a new home – eventually.
“We don’t want to keep several males together as he comes into maturity potential fighting issues will come up.” The hoofstock keeper said Murray will be sent to another zoo in about one or two years.
So, the next time you visit Nashville Zoo, be sure to stop by Africa Field to see Murray up close.
News 2 has partnered with Nashville Zoo to bring you weekly segments of Zoopalooza. You can watch them on News 2 on Good Morning Nashville on Saturday and right here on WKRN.com.