Rare white antelope born at Paignton Zoo

Date: 2010/06/01


The Kafue Flats lechwe calf was born on Sunday 23rd May. She is the first white lechwe born at Paignton Zoo in over 20 years.


Her keepers have named her Sethunya, meaning blossom, because of the hawthorn blossom around the paddock.


Paignton Zoo spokesperson Phil Knowling said: “The lechwe are shy animals in a large paddock and she is very small, so she may be difficult to see - but she is white so she does stand out. She is a naturally-occurring curiosity – and very lovely!”


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. She has been examined and micro-chipped by the Zoo vets. Ghislaine Sayers, Head of Veterinary Services at Paignton Zoo, said:


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. 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..”


The Kafue Flats lechwe (Latin name Kobus leche kafuensis) is an antelope found in parts of Botswana, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Namibia, and Angola. It lives on flood plains and grassland. A single youngster is born after a gestation period of 210 days (7 months).


Many white or albino animals lack their protective camouflage and are unable to conceal themselves from predators, so their survival rate in the wild is usually low. Albinos can have health problems including poor eyesight.


The lechwe is threatened by hunting and habitat destruction. The species is classed as Vulnerable, meaning it has been categorised by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as likely to become Endangered unless the circumstances threatening its survival and reproduction improve. The Zoo has a small herd made up of one dominant male, two young males and three females.


Paignton Zoo Environmental Park is a registered charity. For more information go to www.paigntonzoo.org.uk or ring (01803) 697500.




Further information

Philip Knowling, Paignton Zoo Environmental Park Press Officer, 01803 697568

Paignton Zoo is a member of the British & Irish Association of Zoos & Aquariums (BIAZA). BIAZA represents its member collections and promotes the values of good zoos and aquariums.  For further information please telephone 020 7449 6351.


Philip Knowling

Press Officer

Paignton Zoo Environmental Park & Living Coasts

Totnes Road





Telephone: 01803 697568

Fax: 01803 523457





Paignton Zoo Environmental Park is a registered charity. Registered office: Paignton Zoo Environmental Park, Totnes Road, Paignton, Devon TQ4 7EU. Registration number 792877. Registered charity number 300923. Place of incorporation: Companies House, Cardiff.


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