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15 March 2024

Baby rhino charges into world after quick four-minute labour at Bedfordshire zoo

15 March 2024

A baby rhino has charged into the world after a quick four-minute labour at a conservation zoo in Bedfordshire.

The southern white rhino calf, who tipped the scales and weighed in at 45 kilograms, was born on March 7 at Whipsnade Zoo to mother Jaseera, who was pregnant with the calf for 16 months, and father Sizzle.

Within two hours of being born, the boy calf started to take his first wobbly steps with his 13-year-old mother close to his side.

Rhino keeper Mark Holden said: “Southern white rhinos are born with over-sized, rubbery feet, which they ‘grow into’, so the calf was understandably quite wobbly when he first started to walk.

“But he’s a fast learner and a week later he is now zooming around, exploring his cosy indoor den.”

Mr Holden added that the calf is Jaseera’s first baby, saying it has been “great” to see her maternal instincts kick in.

“Jaseera has been nursing the calf and has been very protective of him – all the signs of a perfect rhino mum,” he said.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), there are 10,000 mature southern white rhinos left in the wild, with numbers continuing to fall, making this birth especially precious.

Mr Holden said: “Sadly, these magnificent creatures are still being hunted in the wild.

“The poached horns are primarily used for traditional medicine in Asia, due to mistaken beliefs that the horns have healing powers.

“Last year in South Africa alone around 500 white rhinos were killed for their horn, that’s more than one a day.”

The new calf was born as part of the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) to help create a genetically diverse and healthy back-up population in conservation zoos like Whipsnade.

Mr Holden said the calf’s father, Sizzle, has been a vital member of the EEP, with the little one set to follow in his footsteps.

“Sizzle has had 15 calves at Whipsnade Zoo, and those calves have gone on to produce 37 grandchildren around Europe and he’s also got 13 great-grandchildren,” he said.

“He’s an incredible bull.”

Visitors will be able to visit the calf and his mother in the indoor dens at the white rhino house at Whipsnade Zoo.

The calf will remain inside the den for the next two weeks while the pair bond before he will be introduced to the crash (a pack of rhinos) later this month.

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