Photo of the Month: Peninsular Pronghorn

By Megan Runquist Holmstedt

Peninsular pronghorn; PHOTO CREDIT: Jamie Pham

Status: This subspecies of the American pronghorn (Antilocapra americana peninsularis) is critically endangered; it is estimated that there are as few as 25 individuals living in the wild in Mexico and 200-300 in human care in zoos throughout North America. Cattle ranching, livestock fencing, and human development prevent their natural movement and encroach on habitat, and although they can go for weeks without drinking, drought is a common threat.

Habitat: Peninsular pronghorn live in the deserts and semi-desert regions of Baja California Sur.

Diet: These herbivores eat flowering plants, shrubs, grasses, broad-leaf weeds, cacti, and sagebrush. They drink when water is available, but they obtain most of their hydration from their food.

The pronghorn is the fastest mammal in the Western hemisphere, reaching speeds of up to 60 miles per hour. While they cannot match a cheetah in a sprint, pronghorns are able to maintain their top speed for significantly longer distances.

Pronghorns have many adaptations to help them achieve impressive speeds: their cloven hooves are padded to absorb the shock from long strides at top speed; their windpipes measure up to two inches in diameter (by comparison, a human’s is ¾ of an inch); and they have enlarged hearts and lungs to aid in oxygen absorption.

Since 2000, the LA Zoo has participated in the Peninsular Pronghorn Recovery Project in cooperation with Espacios Naturales, a Mexican non-governmental organization, to maintain the genetic diversity and vitality of the species.

Between February 27 and March 25 of this year, six fawns, three males and three females, were born at the Zoo from three different mothers. Four are on exhibit with the herd across from the bighorn sheep; two are being hand-reared in the Zoo’s nursery.