STAFF at Highland Wildlife Park are celebrating the birth of a European elk calf.
The calf joins the Kincraig park’s herd of three including three-year-old mum Olivia, six-year-old dad Bob and older brother Orc, who was born in May last year.
Douglas Richardson, head of living collections for the Highland Wildlife Park, said: “As big and tough as they appear, the European elk, or moose, presents some significant husbandry challenges and the species’ captive history is quite chequered.
“However, we feel that we have “cracked” the problems that many zoos have faced with this species and our latest calf is a further assurance that our approach to their management is correct.”
The calf, born last month but now making a public appearance, won’t be named for another three to four weeks when its keepers can determine its gender during a routine check-up.
Although the ginger youngster is still a bit shy, staff say it is the picture of health and progressing well.
Both Olivia and Bob are experienced parents – the calf is Olivia’s second and Bob’s fifth – and mum has been taking excellent care of her newest family member.
European elk used to be native to Scotland, though became extinct in the region between 1,000 and 7,000 years ago and are now only found in woodlands throughout Scandinavia, some parts of Eastern Europe and Russia.
They are very closely related to the North American moose, and are the largest living member of the deer family. Bull elks can grow to be over two metres tall at the shoulder and are best recognised by their enormous scoop-shaped antlers, which can weigh 20kg.
Seasonal breeders, the gestation period of European elk is around 216 to 264 days with most young being born between May and June. Female elk usually give birth to one calf or twins with equal frequency.
The elk herd including its newest arrival can be seen in the Park’s main drive through reserve.
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