Visitors to Chester Zoo were left stunned when an Eastern Black Rhino, named Malindi, gave birth in front of them.
While most Rhino births typically happen at night or in the early hours of the morning, the 12-year-old critically endangered mum shocked onlookers when she went into labour at around 12:30 in the afternoon on July 31.
A healthy male calf was delivered safely, less than half an hour later, in what zoo conservationists have described as a “very rare and special event” to witness.
This is mum, Malindi’s, second calf, and 19-year-old dad, Magadi, has sired five previous calves.
The little one was up on its feet within 15 minutes and was seen running around soon after, before returning to suckle from mum.
Tim Rowlands, Curator of Mammals at the zoo, said, “Visitors to the zoo were treated to something incredibly special when Eastern Black Rhino, Malindi, went in to labour in front of them. With just 650 Eastern Black Rhino left in the wild, seeing the birth of a new calf and it’s very first steps is a very rare and special event indeed.”
“The newborn was delivered onto soft wood mulch and within next to no time it was up on its feet and running around – it couldn’t have gone any smoother.”
Rowlands continued, “Although it’s still very early days, the little one is showing great signs by feeding regularly and mum and calf appear to have bonded very quickly.”
“We just hope this new calf helps us to raise some much needed attention to this truly magnificent species, and inspires urgent action to protect their future on this planet. We cannot and must not allow this subspecies to become extinct – a fate which has, tragically, already become of some of its cousins.”
Conservationists now fear that less than 650 Eastern Black Rhino remain across Africa, with the animals listed as “Critically Endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The staggeringly low wild number is a result of the illegal wildlife trade, driven by the increasing demand for Rhino horn, which supplies the traditional Asian medicine market, where it is currently changing hands for more than gold and drugs.
Mike Jordan, Collections Director at Chester Zoo, added, “This new arrival is a real boost to a critically endangered species. It increases the number of Eastern Black Rhino at Chester to 11 and is another vitally important success story in a Europe-wide breeding programme for these highly threatened animals. A thriving, healthy population of this high profile species in good zoos is vitally important to the future of this species and a key component of our mission to prevent their extinction.”
In tandem with its acclaimed breeding programme, Chester Zoo is also fighting for the survival of Eastern Black Rhino in the field and has long supported conservation efforts to protect Black Rhinos and continues to fund, and provide expertise, to numerous sanctuaries, partners and wildlife reserves in Africa.
The Chester Zoo Black Rhino Programme started in 1999, in partnership with Save the Rhino, providing substantial financial support to Kenya Wildlife Service to enable the translocation of 20 Black Rhinos to wildlife reserves in the Tsavo region of Kenya.
Recently, the Zoo has also provided support for Rhino protection to its partners: the Big Life Foundation in Chyulu Hills National Park in Kenya, and the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust in Mkomazi National Park in Tanzania.
In June 2015, the world’s leading experts on Rhinos and Rhino conservation came together in Europe for the first time when Chester Zoo hosted over 100 zookeepers, researchers, scientists and conservationists from the USA, Australia, Africa and Europe to debate issues surrounding the five species of Rhino: Black, Greater One-horned, White, Sumatran, and Javan Rhino.