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Denver Zoo Welcomes Baby Gerenuk [VIDEO]

Mar 22, 2013 03:16 PM EDT
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The Denver Zoo welcomed a baby gerenuk to its zoo earlier this month through the help of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan (SSP).

The SSP was first founded in 1981 and works to, among other things, ensure the continued breeding and genetic diversity of animals considered to be rare.

As Tiffany Barnhart, Denver Zoo's spokeswoman, told the Denver Post, "The process of the program is not a simple one. It's very precise."

Blossom's father, for example, came from the Los Angeles Zoo and her mother, Layla, from Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Gerenuks are a small antelope native to eastern Africa and with an estimated 95,000 left they are listed as Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Only 10 percent of current populations are in protected areas; East Kenya alone has seen a 50 percent decline in in just 40 years. This is likely due to hunting and livestock grazing.

In all, the level of decline is estimated to have reached a minimum of 35 percent over the last three generations, or 21 years.

Gerenuks are especially shy creatures, which might actually be the only reason the animal is not already endangered. Their coy nature keeps them a safe distance from natural predators as well as hunters. Gerenuks, too, are benefited by the growing mass of thicket that is spreading throughout the same region of Africa as a result of overgrazing by livestock.

However, according to the IUCN, "If current trends continue, it may eventually disappear from large parts of its present distribution until it is largely restricted to effectively protected and managed areas of suitable habitat."

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