The Wilds welcomed a female Southern White Rhinoceros calf born in the pasture during the afternoon of October 5. The calf is the second fifth-generation White Rhino to be born outside of Africa (both fifth-generation calves were born at The Wilds).
The new calf was born to second-time mother, Anan, and first-time father, Roscoe. Anan’s first calf, a male named Letterman (born at The Wilds in 2014), was the first fifth-generation White Rhino to be born outside of Africa.
Anan had a notable birth herself, as she was the first fourth-generation Rhino to be born outside of Africa, and she, too, was born at The Wilds. Anan’s mother, Zen, was the very first Rhino born at The Wilds in 2004 and is still a part of the conservation center’s breeding herd.
The Wilds animal management team members have observed that the new calf is strong and is nursing in the pasture. This is the 17th White Rhino born at The Wilds; the conservation center has also produced seven Asian One-horned Rhinos.
The breeding recommendations are part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan® (SSP) to enhance conservation of these species in their native range and to maintain a sustainable population of rhinos in human care.
“Every birth at The Wilds is significant, but this one is particularly special to us. With each new generation of Rhinos born, it is a testament to the success of the breeding program at The Wilds but more importantly a success for this species as a whole. The Wilds is proud to be a part of the conservation initiatives ensuring the survival of this species,” said Dr. Jan Ramer, vice president of The Wilds.
The White Rhino population had dwindled to perhaps only 50-200 at the beginning of the 20th century, but through conservation efforts, the population of White Rhinos in their native African range has rebounded to about 20,400 animals. However, even with the increase in numbers, the species remains classified as “Near Threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). All five remaining Rhino species in Africa and Asia (White Rhinoceros, Black Rhinoceros, Greater One-horned Rhinoceros, Javan Rhinoceros, and Sumatran Rhinoceros) are persecuted by poachers who sell the horns for ornamental or traditional medicinal purposes, even though there are no scientifically proven health benefits for its use. The horns are made of keratin—the same substance that makes up fingernails and hair. The International Rhino Foundation, which receives support from The Wilds, estimates that one Rhino is killed every eight hours for its horn.
The Southern White Rhinoceros or Southern Square-lipped Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum) is one of the two subspecies of the White Rhinoceros (the other being the Northern White Rhinoceros). It is the most common and widespread subspecies of Rhino.
White Rhino calves are born after a gestation of 16 months and they can grow to be 4,000 pounds and six feet tall at their shoulder. Their natural habitats are plains or woodlands, interspersed with grassy openings. Through reintroduction efforts, their current range in the wild is in southern and eastern African countries.
Their physical characteristics are two pointed horns and a wide mouth suitable for grazing. The name White Rhinoceros originated from the Afrikaans word describing the animal’s mouth: wyd, meaning “wide.” Early English settlers in South Africa misinterpreted the word wyd for “white.”
To further protect the future of Rhinos, The Wilds and the Columbus Zoo has provided more than $196,000 in the last five years in support of conservation projects benefiting Rhinos in their native ranges, such as monitoring Black and White Rhinos in Zimbabwe’s Lowveld region through the International Rhino Foundation and protecting Black Rhinos in the Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary in Kenya through the African Wildlife Foundation.