A baby Southern White Rhinoceros born May 21 at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo has increased the zoo’s herd by one, but the wild population of these magnificent beasts grows smaller every day.
The female calf is already important to the breeding population because she carries the genes of her mother Alaka, who came to the zoo from Africa. Introducing new bloodlines is important for maintaining genetic diversity in the zoo-dwelling population. The newborn marks the fourth successful Southern White Rhino birth and the seventh Rhino born in the zoo’s history.
The zoo is currently home to a herd of five Southern White Rhinos: three adult females from the Phinda Reserve in Africa, one adult male, and the newborn. In keeping with a natural herd structure, Alake and her calf have begun introductions to the other Rhinos and Grevy’s Zebras that share their habitat.
The White Rhinoceros has two horns at the end of its muzzle, with the largest in the front. Unlike some Rhinos, White Rhinos use their horns for defense. Females use their horns to protect their young while males use them to battle each other. Adult White Rhinos can reach weights of about 5,000 pounds, with most calves weighing between 80-140 pounds.
While the birth is welcome news for the managed population, record numbers of Rhinos were killed by poachers in South Africa last year. Despite increased protection efforts, the number of Rhinos killed by poachers jumped 21 percent to 1,215. The current poaching crisis is driven by the demand for Rhino horn in Southeast Asia where horn, which is made up of keratin -- the same material found in human hair and nails -- is believed to have medicinal properties.
See more photos of the Rhino calf below.