The Wilds is celebrating the birth of the second bundle of joy—in the form of a white rhinoceros—born at The Wilds this month! In the early morning hours of Friday, December 18, 2020, the male calf was born in the rhinos’ large, heated barn.
The calf and his 7-year-old mother, Kali, also born at The Wilds, are doing well and continue to bond. Animal Management staff note that Kali, a first-time mom, is very attentive to her little one and is providing him with exceptional care. This is the sixth calf for 16-year-old father, Roscoe, who was born at the Knoxville Zoo. He moved to the Seneca Park Zoo when he was 2 years old and has been living at The Wilds since 2014.
This calf is the 24th white rhino to be born at The Wilds. On December 9, a female white rhino calf was also born to mother, Kifaru, and father, Roscoe. Kifaru and her calf continue to be doing well and will soon be introduced to Kali and her baby. Both calves are currently unnamed, but names will be announced soon!
The Wilds is the only facility outside of Africa that has had rhinos born four and five generations removed from their wild-born ancestors. That success continues with this birth. Kali is now the fourth fourth-generation female at The Wilds to give birth to the sixth fifth-generation calf. Counting Asian one-horned rhinos, another species that lives at The Wilds, this calf marks the 32nd rhino to be born at The Wilds since the first rhino was born at the facility in 2004.
The pairings of Kali and Roscoe and Kifaru and Roscoe were recommended through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan® (SSP). This program is designed to maintain a sustainable population and genetic diversity of threatened and endangered species in human care. The Wilds has also welcomed the births of eight Asian one-horned rhinos since 2005. The most recent Asian one-horned rhino calf, a female named Rohini, was welcomed into The Wilds’ family on August 24, 2019.
“We are extremely proud of the success of our white rhino program at The Wilds. Tthe multigenerational herd is a true testament to our Animal Management team’s expertise and the great care they provide to the animals. White rhinos continue to face many challenges in their native range, and the arrival of each calf is truly a cause for celebration. Each birth is vital in protecting the future of the species,” said Columbus Zoo and Aquarium President/CEO Tom Stalf.
“Welcoming our second white rhinoceros calf this month truly is a wonderful gift. These little ambassadors for their species will touch your heart when you come to visit us for a Winter at The Wilds tour! Thanks to our community’s support, we can continue our important conservation work with threatened and endangered species, and continue inspiring others to take action to help make a positive difference in our world,” said Dr. Jan Ramer, vice president of The Wilds.
The white rhino population had dwindled to an estimated 50-200 individuals at the beginning of the 20th century. Still, through conservation efforts, the population of white rhinos in their native range in Africa 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 killed by poachers who sell rhino horn 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 estimates that one rhino is killed every 10 hours for its horn.
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 habitats typically consist of plains or woodlands, interspersed with grassy openings. Through reintroduction efforts, their native range has been established 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 $218,000 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, protecting black rhinos in the Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary in Kenya through the African Wildlife Foundation and habitat restoration focused on the shortgrass that white rhinos eat through the White Rhinos: Rhinoceros Fund Uganda.
Guests may have the opportunity to view the calves and their mothers, along with the other rhinos in the rhino barn during a Winter at The Wilds Tour. Tours are available at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. through April. Please note that reservations must be made at least 72 hours in advance.