The Oregon Zoo Welcomes Rare Bontebok Calf In Inspiring Conservation Success Story

Portland, Ore. — The Oregon Zoo has recently welcomed a new addition to its animal family – a rare African bontebok calf. Born on April 1, the calf is the latest chapter in what is considered one of history’s most inspiring conservation success stories. Winter, an eight-year-old bontebok in the zoo’s Africa savanna area, gave birth to the calf.

According to Kelly Gomez, who oversees the zoo’s Africa section, “This cute little guy is living proof of the impact people can have if we work together for wildlife.” Just a couple of centuries ago, there were only 17 bontebok left on the planet, and the species was on the verge of extinction. The birth of this calf is a testament to the successful conservation efforts that have brought the species back from the brink of extinction.

Although the week-old calf weighs around 18 pounds and appears healthy, he initially had trouble nursing. As a precaution, veterinarians administered a transfusion of plasma from his father, which contained the antibodies he needed to fight off any possible infection. After a couple of supplemental bottle-feedings, he was returned to his mother, and he was nursing just fine.

Five day-old bontebok calf at the Oregon Zoo. © Oregon Zoo / photo by Kelsey Wallace.

The bontebok calf will remain indoors until he is a little older, and the weather is a little warmer. Visitors to the zoo can look forward to seeing the calf venture outside with the other bonteboks in due course.

The bontebok is not a well-known species in the United States, but according to The Nature Conservancy, it “deserves a place in the annals of conservation history.” It is arguably the first African animal saved from human-caused extinction. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Dutch settlers hunted the bontebok to the brink of extinction, considering them pests that were competing for farmland. By 1837, the last 17 bontebok on the planet were enclosed safely inside a fence by some sympathetic farmers, effectively creating the first African antelope preserve.

The bontebok population gradually started to rebound with the establishment of the Bontebok National Park in 1931. Today, the species’ population is estimated to be around 2,500 to 3,000.

The Oregon Zoo, as part of Metro, is committed to conservation, working to save endangered species like California condors, northwestern pond turtles, Oregon silverspot and Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies, and northern leopard frogs. The zoo’s efforts in conservation, education, and animal welfare are enhanced and expanded through support from the Oregon Zoo Foundation. Members, donors, and corporate and foundation partners help the zoo make a difference across the region and around the world. To contribute, visit

The Oregon Zoo’s inspiring story of the bontebok’s successful conservation efforts gives hope that similar conservation successes can be achieved for other endangered species.