A year ago, staff at Taronga Western Plains Zoo grieved for the loss of four White Rhinos that had contracted an illness. But this year on May 14th, staff arrived to find a wonderful early morning surprise. Mopani, the only female White Rhino to survive the illness, had given birth to a little male. Only hours old, the calf was still a bit wobbly on his feet as the news spread around the zoo.
“Mopani is an amazing animal, having actually contracted the illness last year whilst carrying her calf. To come through that and give birth to this healthy calf is just remarkable,” said Senior White Rhino Keeper, Pascale Benoit. “Everyone is just over the moon with the arrival of the White Rhino calf."
Mopani, a gentle and caring first-time mother, is doing her job well. The calf will nurse from his mother for two years until he is weaned. While the male rhinos do not take part in raising the young, the father Umfana also deserves congratulations, as this is his third calf and second male.
Photo credits: Taronga Western Plains Zoo
See a video the little male calf and his mother:
According to Benoit, the healthy calf is “quite easy-going and seems to like being the center of attention.” He is on exhibit with Mopani and another adult female, Likewizi, who recently joined the herd this year.
Every Rhino birth is important as poaching continues to increase in Africa. According to the International Rhino Foundation, of which Taronga is a founding member, African Rhinos are barely keeping pace with the unprecedented poaching crisis. Nearly 2000 Rhinos have been slaughtered across Africa since 2006, slowing population growth rates to some of the lowest levels in decades. While numbers of White Rhinos in the wild are remaining steady at present due to conservation action, it can all change very rapidly.
This is the ninth calf born to the White Rhino breeding program since 2003, when five White Rhinos arrived at Taronga from Kruger National Park to help create greater genetic diversity in the region’s population.
Benoit says, “This calf is not only an important birth for Taronga Western Plains Zoo, but for the species as a whole. Mopani had never bred before, so to produce an offspring has created a new genetic line and greater genetic diversity within the White Rhino population throughout Australasia.”