Keepers at Highland Wildlife Park have said they are “excited” to announce the arrival of a muskox calf.
Mum Karin, who was born in the Czech Republic in 2002, gave birth to the male calf on June 2. This, said the park, is a “major event” as muskox are difficult to breed because of high neonatal mortality rates. The last muskox calf to survive until adulthood in the UK was born in 1992, and last year, Belle, a muskox calf, died at the park aged five months due to an injury inflicted by one of her parents.
According to the park, muskox calves are notoriously difficult to rear in captivity as their weak immune systems mean they are highly susceptible to disease and infection. Adults are also inherently aggressive. This year, said the park, keepers are working hard to make sure this new arrival survives.
Head of living collections at Highland Wildlife Park Douglas Richardson said the calf was not “out of the woods yet”.
“We have a long way to go before we can confidently say we have been successful,” he said. “The calf is growing well and is being closely monitored by its keepers, but the young of the species are extremely fragile and in light of losing last year’s calf, we have altered our husbandry protocol to hopefully avoid a similar problem.
“The calf will remain privately with his mother for some time yet and will be named at a later date.”
The new muskox calf will grow quickly and could weigh an impressive 300kg when mature. As it continues to grow, the calf and mother will be gradually introduced to one of the large grass enclosures and later to the father.
A social species, the muskox typically form mixed herds of around 10 to 20 animals, but they can sometimes contain as many as 100. They are also a conservation success story as they were hunted nearly to extinction for their fur and meat. However, a combination of conservation regulation, reintroductions and natural recolonisation means the muskox is now classified as being of least concern on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.
For more information, visit the park’s website.