A tiny dancer is on view in the Desert Dome at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.
A klipspringer calf that was born Jan. 26 is in a display with her mother, or dam, Daphne, 6, and some meerkats. The calf's father, or sire, Naadir, also 6, sometimes shares the display.
Klipspringer is Afrikaans for rock jumper. The ballerina comparison comes from the animals' amazing balance and movements. The dwarf African antelopes have unusual hooves, shaped so that the animals appear to be running or hopping on their tiptoes. And they can strike a most unusual pose, with all four hooves together in a space a little larger than a silver dollar.
Zookeepers haven't removed the calf from the mother yet to check its sex, zoo officials said. They think it's a female but aren't sure.
The adult klipspringer grows to only about 2 feet high at the shoulder. Its agility, speed and beige, gray and brown coloring help it elude predators.
Its most unusual feature is the black, teardrop-shaped pre-orbital gland under each eye, said Dan Cassidy, general curator at the zoo. The animal leaves the tarlike substance in the gland on sticks and plants to mark its territory.
Klipspringers are monogamous, sticking with their mates for life. They have only one calf at a time. A calf stays with its mother until it is about a year old, when they are considered mature. Then they leave to find a mate of their own and stake out a new territory. They are somewhat solitary animals and don't usually stay in herds, although sometimes family will stick together.
They're vegetarians, and pairs generally take turns eating. The one keeping watch for danger, the sentinel, will sound an alarm — a loud whistling noise through its nose — if there is a threat. They get all the water they need from dew or the plants they eat.
In the wild, they're found in the mountainous areas of eastern and southwestern Africa. They aren't presently considered endangered.
However, there aren't many of them in North America: Only 32 reside in 15 Association of Zoos and Aquariums institutions.
The last klipspringer birth at Omaha's zoo was to another pair in 2003. Daphne, Naadir and the calf are the only three living at the zoo now.