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Bald eagles and bongo antelopes are new to the Abilene Zoo | KTA

ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – As the first stages of Abilene Zoo’s 10-year master plan are underway, the first dominoes have fallen, with the arrival of three new species to the key city.

While many residents of the Abilene Zoo were holed up trying to stay out of the pouring rain and wind on Wednesday morning, the zoo’s newest residents were out in full force just a day after officially taking part in the exhibit .

“We wanted to catch the bald eagles right away because we rescued two and put them back in the wild,” zoo director Jesse Pottebaum said. “We wanted to get these two attractive species and tell their story.”

Two juvenile male bald eagles have found their permanent home in the backyard of Elm Creek, once where the turkey used to live. After reinventing the enclosure, the two eagles have been driven out of Florida and can officially call Abilene home.

America’s quintessential icon, the bald eagle nearly became extinct in the late 1960s and 1970s after many ingested a popular insecticide called dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT). A contact poison, many of the eagle’s food sources ingested the insecticide later to be eaten by the eagles and caused a huge population decline.

“There were only about 400 active nests, which means there were only 800 bald eagles in our country,” Pottebaum explained.

However, since a rescission order was issued on DDT in the 1970s, bald eagle populations have seen a slight increase from nearly extinct to thriving across the United States. United.

Sparky and Leu are teenage eagles, so they might look a little different when you first see them. They are full grown, but they won’t get their distinctive white heads until they are five to seven years old. However, Leu is special in his own rite.

“He might not get that dark feather plumage, but he’ll still have some flecks of white,” Pottebaum explained of Leu’s unique genetic trait.

Due to the nature of bald eagles, Pottebaum told KTAB/KRBC it took over a year and a half to receive the proper permits to house these federally protected birds.

However, these two feathered beauties aren’t the only new residents of Abilene Zoo.

“We actually acquired a whole new species, for the first time at the Abilene Zoo,” Pottebaum said. “It’s called a bongo and it’s a species of antelope from Africa, which is also on the verge of extinction.”

Known for their reddish-brown coloration, forest dwellers are notoriously temperamental. The Abilene Zoo bongo goes by Hubert and is from Houston. Only a few hundred of its kind remain in the wilds of eastern central Africa.

“It’s actually zoos bringing them back from extinction. They thrive in zoos and breed well in zoos, and they’re a very attractive species,” Pottebaum said, encouraging everyone to come see their new resident.

You can find Hubert in his new enclosure with the red bush pigs facing Uhuru the black rhinoceros.

While bald eagles and bongos are the first two species of their kind at the Abilene Zoo, the third has always remained unnamed. Pottebaum advised to keep checking with the Abilene Zoo to find out when the next new species will debut.

Finally, although they are not new to the Abilene Zoo, a baby blue duiker was born in the last few weeks. Her older sister, Rosie, was born in September 2022. Zoo keeper Alex Gonzalez said the newest cub was like her shadow, usually right on her older sister’s heels.

Pottebaum added that more details on the first phase of the zoo’s master plan are expected to be released within the next two months.


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