Katie, Black Rhino Keeper
Rhinos are born without horns - for obvious reasons! The first horn begins to grow within a week or two, followed by the rear horn developing at around three months of age. In newly-named Kufara's case, the calf has already started to copy mum and shape her 3cm front horn on some favourite rubbing posts, and now the rough and textured looking horn plate behind is showing signs of growth as well. Rhino horn is made of keratin, the same material as other horns, hooves, hair and nails. This is why it can change length and shape throughout a Rhino's life, just as humans cut, file and shape their finger nails.
Ironically, it is this defining feature of a Rhino that is it's death warrant. Although keratin has been scientifically proven to have no medicinal, aphrodisiac or magical properties, all five Rhino species continue to be poached in large numbers to supply horn to the Asian medicine market and to the Middle East for symbolic decorative purposes. In the right (or wrong) market, Rhino horn per kilogram can fetch twice the price of pure gold. In the case of the Black Rhino, horn poaching caused their population numbers to fall 96% in just two decades. The most recent official Africa-wide census indicates their numbers are at 4230, making the Black Rhino Critically Endangered.
At 11 weeks, we estimate Kufara has doubled her birth weight making her now around 70 kg. Mum, Bakhita, was born here at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in 2002, and is an extremely calm and interactive animal. We are lucky that she is comfortable enough to allow keepers and the vets to closely monitor her calf's development.