Continuing its mission to save wildlife and wild lands, the Wildlife Conservation Society's (WCS) Queens Zoo is proud to announce the debut of three pronghorns. An elegant creature, the pronghorn is unique in that it is the lone member of the family, Antilocapridae. They are true American natives and cannot be found naturally anywhere else in the world.
The new fawns--one male, two females--hail from two zoos in Kansas and North Dakota, but this species is known for long trips. Pronghorns are second only to Arctic caribou for long distance migration in the Western Hemisphere. Arriving at the Zoo in June when they were only days old, the fawns were bottle-fed a nutrient-rich formula by Zookeepers three times a day. Now, the pronghorns and the Zoo's bison herd, two species that share the same land in the wild, reside in the same exhibit, making for an authentic "Great Plains" experience for both the animals and visitors.
In September, Zookeepers began settling the youngsters into their new home, which resembles the vast prairies of the West. Then, they introduced the pronghorn and the bison to each other in a controlled environment, before fully integrating the two species within the exhibit. The process was a success, and the animals are now cohabitating peacefully. The bison and pronghorn were curious about each other at first, but now tend to keep their distance, although zookeepers have seen an occasional sniff or lick between the two species.
Beat out only by the cheetah, the pronghorn is the second fastest animal in the world. Unfortunately, they can't outrun the development of western lands that is quickly destroying their natural habitat. Once a very populous species, pronghorn numbers are now dwindling.
Pronghorns embark on the longest remaining overland migration in the continental United States, and for 6,000 years, this isolated population has traveled the same ground. According to WCS researchers, however, the pronghorn and its ancient migration route could vanish from an ecosystem that includes Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. The species could disappear due to continued development and human disturbance outside of these parks. Six of the eight antelope migration corridors in and out of the Yellowstone ecosystem have already been lost.
The Wildlife Conservation
Society's Queens Zoo and field researchers are committed to
protecting the pronghorn antelope. Through continued research, WCS
hopes to solve the pronghorn crisis by working with government agencies
to create a new wildlife corridor for these animals. Meanwhile, Zoo
officials are certain that this remarkable species will captivate
Zoo-goers, wonderfully shedding light on the pronghorns' plight out
Photo: Julie Maher