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Page last updated at 15:49 GMT, Tuesday, 1 June 2010 16:49 UK
Rare white antelope born at Paignton Zoo
By Laura Joint
BBC Devon

The calf
The rare baby white antelope has been named Sethunya

Meet the newest arrival at Paignton Zoo - a rare white Kafue Flats lechwe antelope.

Sethunya - meaning blossom - was born on 23 May 2010 and is pictured here in her paddock.

"The lechwe are shy animals in a large paddock and she is very small, so she may be difficult to see," said zoo spokeseman Philip Knowling.

"But she is white so she does stand out. She is a naturally-occurring curiosity - and very lovely."

Watch Spotlight's film about the antelope

The youngster's colouring is due to a double recessive gene that only occurs in females. She is not a true albino as her eyes are blue, not pink.

The lechwe is threatened by hunting and habitat destruction.

The species is classed as vulnerable and is likely to become endangered unless circumstances improve.

Survival in the wild is even more tricky for those born white, as they lack the colouring to offer them a degree of camouflage.

"In the wild this sort of thing makes animals an easy target for predators and they don't normally reach breeding age, so the gene is not passed on," said Ghislaine Sayers, head of veterinary services at Paignton Zoo.

The calf with mum
Calf and mum enjoying the spring air at Paignton Zoo

"Zoo animals are more likely to survive but if they bred it would increase the presence of the gene.

"If we ever re-introduced white lechwe into the wild we would be increasing the presence of this undesirable gene.

"When she is older we will use a contraceptive implant."

Sethunya has been examined and micro-chipped by zoo vets.

She joins the other Kafue Flats lechwe at Paignton Zoo - a small herd comprising one dominant male, two young males and three females.

* The Kafue Flats lechwe is an antelope found in parts of Botswana, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Namibia, and Angola. It lives on flood plains and grassland.




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