Southern white rhino calf at San Diego Zoo raises hopes for the future of wild rhinoceroses

The bumbling, sleepy rhino calf at San Diego Zoo is sure to delight animal lovers around the world. But for conservation scientists, his birth has additional meaning it marks a significant step toward saving wild rhino populations from the edge of extinction.

The newborn southern white rhino is the first in North America, and the third in the world, born as the result of artificial insemination.

His mother Victoria, who carried the calf for 493 days, stayed calm during her 30-minute labor on Sunday, the zoo announced.

Victoria is doing a great job as a mother, said Barbara Durrant, director of reproductive sciences at San Diego Zoo Global, the not-for-profit organization that runs the zoo. And the calf is doing great. As soon as Victoria took the placenta off him, he was moving. He stood very quickly, and of course, he was very wobbly.

At two days old, he is steadying himself. And though he stays close to his mother, appears to be growing curious about his surroundings, she reported. The zoo has yet to announce a name for the calf.

He is very cute, but he has much greater significance, said Durrant. The birth of the new southern rhino calf is part of a plan to save the northern white rhino a related subspecies whose population has dwindled to two.

The
The calf stands on its wobbly legs at the zoos Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center. Photograph: Ken Bohn/AP

Whereas populations of southern white rhinos have recovered and stabilized, thanks to a century of protection and management, northern white rhinos have been decimated by hunting during the colonial era and poaching in recent years. The last male northern white rhino died in March, and only two females of the species remain.

Durrant and her colleagues at the San Diego Zoo hope that eventually the six female southern white rhinos under their care, including Victoria, will serve as surrogates for northern white rhino embryos, helping revive the population.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park (@sdzsafaripark)

BIG NEWS: The pitter patter of little hooves at the Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center ushered in a historic milestone yesterday as Victoria gave birth to a healthy male calf.



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