It was a very special Christmas this year for the staff at Zoo Atlanta, who celebrated the birth of a rare Southern white rhinoceros, the first ever born at the zoo.
According to a press release, 22-year-old rhino mom Kiazi gave birth to her calf on December 24, marking a historic first for Zoo Atlanta right in time for Christmas.
Veterinary teams are monitoring the mother and calf, and say the newborn appears to be healthy and strong, and that Kiazi is providing appropriate maternal care. While it marks her first birth at Zoo Atlanta, Kiazi has previously given birth to two offspring at other organizations.
“The Zoo Atlanta family is beyond excited about the birth of Kiazi’s calf. This birth has been long-awaited news for many months,” zoo president and CEO Raymond B. King said in a press release. Zoo staff first detected Kiazi’s pregnancy in the spring. White rhinos have some of the longest pregnancies in the animal kingdom, ranging from 16 to 18 months.
The newborn’s father is a 12-year-old named Mumbles, who was paired with Kiazi in 2022 under a recommendation by the AZA White Rhino Species Survival Plan, which aims to maintain a healthy and genetically diverse population for the species.
Southern white rhinos are the largest species of rhino, and newborns can weigh between 100 and 150 pounds at birth. Despite their name, white rhinos are not actually white.
While the southern white rhinoceros is not endangered, the species is listed as “Near Threatened” by the IUCN, and are a vulnerable target of poachers for their coveted horns. They were nearly hunted to extinction by the end of the 19th century, but have made a comeback thanks to conservation efforts.
Other rhino species are critically endangered and threatened with extinction, and the zoo hopes the newborn will inspire awareness about rhino conservation.
“If there is a special connection that our Members and guests can make with Kiazi and her calf, this is a connection that can translate to conservation action. All rhino species are currently in peril, and as stewards of this brand-new ambassador here in Atlanta, we also have a responsibility to do all we can to raise awareness of the status of wild rhinos.”
Kiazi and her newborn have been bonding privately behind the scenes; they will later enter the rhino habitat.
The birth is very exciting news for Zoo Atlanta, who has had just one rhino calf birth in their 134-year history: an eastern black rhino who arrived in 2013.
The zoo also recently received another southern white rhino, a 17-year-old female named Dakari, in October. She will also be introduced to Mumbles under a recommendation of the species survival plan — so more rhino calves could be in store for the future.
Congratulations to Kiazi and Zoo Atlanta on the arrival of this adorable baby southern white rhino! Please share this amazing news! 🦏❤️