A male Southern White Rhinoceros calf born on an unusually cold night at Florida's White Oak Conservation Center is now being hand-reared by the staff at New Mexico's ABQ BioPark, thanks to a unique arrangement between the two facilities.
After the baby was born in Florida on October 30, the White Oak staff observed that the 169-pound calf was slow to start nursing and did not establish a strong bond with his mother, so they decided to hand-rear the calf.
Because the calf’s father is Bully, a male Rhino sent from the BioPark on a special loan to White Oak, the calf belongs to the BioPark. White Oak Conservation Center partners with zoos to conserve threatened species through breeding and other programs.
The calf is bottle-fed a mixture of skim and 1% cow's milk with extra dextrose and vitamins added. This formula mimics the very sweet, low-fat milk of Rhino mothers. The baby Rhino is hand-fed around the clock, every 3-4 hours, at the BioPark.
"We are pleased that Albuquerque can offer a good home to this Rhino calf," said Mayor Richard J. Berry, shown feeding the calf in the photo above. "We know that our Zoo will give him top-notch care, and what a great treat for families to watch this little guy grow up."
"The calf is very playful and rambunctious," said Zoo Manager Lynn Tupa, who traveled with the two-week-old calf from Florida. "He did great during the trip, and we enjoyed getting to know him. He loves his fuzzy blankets, which he rolls around on and drags with him."
The calf's first few months at the BioPark will be spent behind-the-scenes as he gets accustomed to staff and the three adult Rhinos Bertha, Lulu and Bernie.
The Southern White Rhinonoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum), native to southern Africa, is the world’s third largest land animal, but nearly became extinct in the early 1900s, when hunting reduced the White Rhino population to 100 animals. Today, there are more than 20,000 individuals. Conservation efforts such as captive breeding have been an integral part of this success story. Zoos and other facilities have been able to provide social, open spaces for Rhino groups to breed and thrive. Unfortunately, poaching for Rhino horns continues to threaten the future of the species.
Photo Credit: ABQ BioPark