Nashville Zoo announced the birth and debut of Mai, a two-month-old female bontebok calf. Mai was born on Halloween night, weighing in at 16 pounds to first-time mom and third-time dad, Rye and Ibunzi. 

The Zoo’s hoofstock team reported that Mai was born overnight in the hoofstock barn. “We have cameras in the barn so keepers can monitor the birth online while allowing Rye the ability to have a calm environment for birth,” said Hoofstock Supervisor Nikole Edmunds. While Mai had a shaky start and lost some weight, she has since bounced back and her and mom are doing just fine.

Mai is Nashville Zoo’s fourth successful bontebok birth since 2017 bringing the total number of bontebok in the Zoo’s care to four. Rye and Mai are doing great and can both be seen in their mixed-species habitat on the Zoo’s Africa Field habitat. Mai is still being introduced to some of the species in this habitat, so she may be behind-the-scenes some days in the following weeks. The long-term plan is for Mai stay at Nashville Zoo. Once she is old enough, a male from another genetic line will be brought in as her breeding partner. Bontebok are considered vulnerable to extinction due to urban development according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Nashville Zoo works with other AZA-accredited facilities that participate in the bontebok breeding program to help ensure genetically diverse populations amongst this species in human care.

Bontebok (Damaliscus pygargus pygargus) are native to the grasslands of South Africa. They are a medium-sized antelope with elegant spiraling horns and a notable white strip that runs down the center of the face. In the wild, they feed on short grasses and plants on the open savanna. Bontebok are diurnal feeders meaning they will graze at dawn and dusk and rest during the day.

Nashville Zoo donates to various organizations that support the conservation of species in Africa including International Rhino Foundation and Vulpro, an organization dedicated to saving vultures in the wild. To learn more about Nashville Zoo’s conservation efforts, visit