Cotswold Wildlife Park celebrated an incredible milestone, recently. First-time mother, ‘Ruby’, gave birth to the Park’s first male White Rhino. The comparatively tiny calf is healthy and nursing well from Ruby, who is proving to be an exceptional mother.
Keepers, and a few lucky visitors, were present when Ruby gave birth at 12.30 pm on Friday, March 27th. In less than ten minutes, the fifteen month pregnancy was over, and thankfully, after a relatively quick labor, a new baby was welcomed into the family-run Burford Collection. Keeper Chris Kibbey caught the special moment on film.
Curator of Cotswold Wildlife Park, Jamie Craig, commented: “Although we were expecting the birth, it still took us by surprise, at the time. After careful preparations for a nice, quiet arrival, ‘Ian’ was born in full view of many of the staff here at lunchtime on Friday, and Ruby allowed us a full graphic view of his entry into the world – an experience we will never forget. Although still very early days, he seems strong and Ruby appears to be an attentive mother.”
The Rhino calf’s father, ‘Monty’, and mother, ‘Ruby’, are both nine years old. In 2009, Ruby (along with another female called ‘Nancy’) made the eleven thousand kilometer journey from Mafunyane Game Farm, in South Africa, to the UK to join the young male, Monty, at their new Oxfordshire home. It was hoped that, one day, they would successfully produce the Park’s first ever Rhino calf. Monty has since fathered two calves. Nancy gave birth to a female, ‘Astrid’, in 2013, and now Ian has followed twenty months later.
Females only reproduce every two-and-a-half to five years, so the window of opportunity for successful reproduction is limited. Unbelievably, these iconic animals were once the rarest subspecies of any Rhino, and they were on the verge of extinction in the early 1900s. It was believed only twenty to fifty animals remained in their native African homeland, during that time period. However, thanks to excellent and sustained protection, they are now the most common of the five Rhino subspecies. The White Rhino is currently classified as “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List.
The calf has been named ‘Ian’ in memory of the highly respected South African conservationist, Ian Player, who spearheaded efforts to rescue the Southern White Rhino from extinction. The Park’s original Rhino pair, called ‘Lebombo’ and ‘Somtuli’, arrived from Umfolozi in 1972 as a direct result of Ian’s Rhino conservation initiatives with South Africa’s Natal Parks Board. His memory lives on in the Park’s Rhino family.
Visitors to Cotswold can see the new calf daily from 10am to 6pm (last entry at 4.30pm) in the solar powered Rhino House.
More pics and incredible video, below the fold!