Keepers at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo are celebrating the birth of a Greater One-Horned Rhino calf.
Weighing in at a whopping 76kg (almost 12 stone or 167 lbs.), the calf, which keepers have named Bali (Nepali for ‘strong’) was born on the evening of September 6th, after a 17-month gestation. This is the fourth calf for 19-year-old mother, Behan. Her other calves have all moved to other Zoos to breed, as part of the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP).
Bali is the 14th Greater One-Horned Rhino calf to be born at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, which has an exceptional record with its breeding programme for the species. ZSL Whipsnade Zoo was one of the first Zoos in the world to breed the species in 1957. ln the past 12 months, there have been only four Greater One-Horned Rhino births in three European zoos, with only one other in the United States of America. Young Bali was born just in time to celebrate World Rhino Day on September 22nd.
Deputy Team Leader Veronica Watkins, said, “The whole team is very excited to see the safe arrival of our newest rhino. To be involved in bringing one of these endangered animals into the world makes all of our efforts feel worthwhile, and it makes celebrating World Rhino Day this year feel extra special.
“The labour was relatively straightforward. Behan was restless the previous night so we suspected the birth was imminent, but once her waters broke we were able to monitor her carefully through CCTV cameras, without interfering in the process.
“The following day Bali was up and about, looking around at everything inquisitively. Behan, who has always been an excellent mother to her calves, was staying very close to him.”
Greater One-Horned Rhinos are classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, due to illegal poaching and a decline in quality of habitat. Also known as the Indian Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis), they are native to India and Nepal. There are thought to be less than 3,000 Greater One-Horned Rhinos left in the wild.
Rhinos are mostly solitary creatures, with the exception of mothers and calves and breeding pairs, although they sometimes congregate at bathing areas. They are active at night and early morning and prefer to spend mid-day wallowing in lakes, rivers, ponds and puddles, in an effort to cool off. They are known to be good swimmers. They can also run at speeds of up to 55 km/h (34 mph) for short periods. They have excellent hearing and sense of smell, but they have relatively poor eyesight.
Indian Rhinos are grazers, and their diet consists almost entirely of grasses. They also eat leaves, branches, and submerged aquatic plants. They prefer to feed in the mornings and evenings, and they use their prehensile lips to grasp food.
Captive males breed at five years of age, but wild males attain dominance much later when they are larger in size. Captive females breed as young as four years of age, but in the wild, they usually start breeding at around six years of age. Their gestation period is, generally, around 15.7 months, and birth intervals typically range from 34-51 months. In captivity, they have been known to live over 40 years.
International conservation and science charity, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), works in Nepal to monitor and protect Greater One-Horned Rhinos through an anti-poaching task force and by working alongside local communities. ZSL’s work in Chitwan National Park allowed the number of rhinos to rise from 100, in the late 1960s, to 544 in 2000.