Sultana the orphan antelope rules park keeper’s roost

ANIMALS don’t always make good lodgers – especially when they make a mess on the carpet. That’s what one safari park keeper is finding after taking home a needy baby antelope.

Emma Gatcliffe, a head keeper at Knowsley Safari Park on Merseyside, is hand rearing Sultana, a sitatunga antelope, in the spare room of her Manchester home after the fawn was abandoned by her mother.

Emma brings Sultana home every night in a dog carrier in her car. After a feed every four hours, Sultana likes playing with Emma’s pet poodle Macy, or reclining in front of the TV with her hooves up.

When all that’s too much, she settles down for the night in a specially created pen in the spare bedroom.

Emma, 30, said: “This arrangement has been working very well for the last few weeks, although it hasn’t done wonders for my bedroom carpet.

“Sultana is very affectionate and has quickly got used to our routine – she’s waiting by my car ready to come home every evening.”

Knowsley keepers stepped in to save Sultana after a tip-off from a visitor who saw a group of wildebeest acting aggressively towards her after she wandered over, probably looking for food.

Safari park general manager, David Ross, said: “Our policy is usually to let nature take its course and we regard hand rearing as very much a last resort.

“However, on this occasion, the baby antelope was obviously not going to make it without our help so we had no choice but to give her a second chance.

“In the long run, though, this move could benefit the park – we only have a small group of this rare antelope so Sultana could grow into a very useful breeding female for us.”

Mr Ross also said that the end of Sultana’s tenancy with Emma is in sight.

When the gap between feeds becomes longer, the fawn will be able to stay at the park overnight and the aim will be to reintegrate her into the herd at the earliest opportunity.

In the meantime, Sultana has become a celebrity in Emma’s neighbourhood: “All our friends and neighbours are fascinated by her,” she said. “We’ve never had so many visitors.”

In the wild the shy, swamp-dwelling animals are mainly found in the Congo, Botswana, Zambia and Kenya and are regarded as a threatened species.

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