Zoo celebrates birth of baby Southern white rhino, part of vulnerable species

Zoo celebrates birth of baby Southern white rhino, part of vulnerable species

It’s always a special day at a zoo when a new animal is born, but it’s especially great when the animal is part of a vulnerable species: every new birth is a step towards saving these at-risk animals.

Recently, one zoo welcomed a beautiful Southern white rhino baby, the first in their history.

The Tulsa Zoo, in Oklahoma, announced the good news: the male calf was born on November 7 to a mother named Sally.

The zoo reports that the baby calf is developing well: he was born weighing 127 pounds, and took his first steps within an hour and started nursing in two hours, “both healthy signs,” the Tulsa Zoo writes.

The birth took about 30 minutes, and both the baby and mom are doing well. Mom Sally gave birth in isolation and she’s been given a private area to bond with her newborn. This is Sally’s fourth calf.

Sally arrived at the zoo in October 2020, from another facility called The Wilds, and was already pregnant when she arrived in her new home. Rhino gestation takes between 16 and 18 months.

It was a welcome surprise for the Tulsa Zoo, who eagerly awaited the arrival of the first rhino ever born at their facility.

“When we built the Mary K. Chapman Rhino Reserve we wanted to create an environment that supports adaptability to the needs of rhinos at all life stages and sustainability of the white rhino population in AZA Zoos,” said Tulsa Zoo Zoological Curator of Mammals Jordan Piha. “We’re excited to see those plans become reality with the announcement of Sally’s pregnancy.”

The father is Kengele, Sally’s mate at The Wilds, and the match was part of the AZA’s Species Survival Plan, helping to protect a vulnerable species of rhino.

The Southern white rhino’s status is considered “Near-Threatened.” While they’ve made a comeback over the past century due to conservation efforts (they were thought to be extinct in the late 19th century) they are still at risk, targeted by poachers for their horns. There are now fewer than 20,000 left in the wild.

“White rhinos are near-threatened, so every rhino is special,” said Jordan Piha, zoological curator of mammals at the Tulsa Zoo, in a video.

The rhino is not viewable to the public just yet. Jordan says the calf will go through some more developmental steps, including venturing outside his enclosure meeting the rest of his herd.

What a beautiful baby rhino! Congrats to the zoo and mother Sally on this incredible, successful birth — a big step forward in ensuring the survival of this species.

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