Chester Zoo has welcomed a very important baby - a Black Rhino calf. She may not have a name yet but she does have an important role to play as the two-week-old is another step towards sustaining a Black Rhino population which, in the wild, has been ravaged by poachers.
Keeper Helen Massey said, "She's a very attentive mum. She is doing everything right and both her and her calf seem very, very happy.” The birth brings the number of critically-endangered Black Rhinos housed by the zoo to eight. Mrs Massey added, "Black rhino face a very real threat of extinction and so every birth is vital to ensure their survival.
“So, in the event that the unthinkable happens and they vanish completely from the wild, we need to ensure we have an insurance population and that’s why this arrival is such brilliant news. There’s a very happy team of keepers, vets and conservationists here at Chester Zoo today.”
There are thought to be just 700 Eastern Black Rhinos remaining across the world, placing the species perilously close to extinction.
Numbers in Africa are plummeting as a result of a dramatic surge in illegal poaching. A global increase in demand for rhino horn to supply the traditional Asian medicine market, where it is wrongly believed to be a cure for everything from nightmares to dysentery, has intensified the situation in recent times. The attrition is being driven by the astonishing street value of Rhino horn, which is currently worth more per gram than gold and cocaine.
Back at the zoo, the new calf will eventually join the international breeding programme, which has already seen some Black Rhinos returned to Africa to help boost numbers. Mrs Massey added, "Our new arrival is only taking small steps at the moment, but eventually it will have a bigger role to play as part of a co-ordinated breeding programme.”
The baby rhino and mum are currently off-show to visitors while the pair are given privacy and time to bond.