Taronga Western Plains Zoo is pleased to announce the arrival of a rare Southern Black Rhinoceros calf, born on 31 October to mother Bakhita and father Kwanzaa.
The yet-to-be-named male calf is the second Black Rhino calf to be born at the Zoo this year, boosting the Zoo’s successful Black Rhino breeding program.
“We are very happy with the arrival of a healthy male calf born overnight on 31 October. Every birth is special but to have two Black Rhino calves born in one year is particularly exciting. We’re thrilled,” Keeper Scott Smith said.
“The birth occurred in the early hours of Halloween, following a 15-month gestation period for Bakhita. It was a smooth delivery and the calf is strong, healthy and well.
“Bakhita is an experienced and nurturing mother, and while she’s protective of her baby, she is relatively relaxed and trusting around Keepers. At just two weeks of age, the calf was showing his confidence and interacting with Keepers via a ‘creep’ yard - a fence opening large enough for the baby to pass through, but too small for Bakhita,” Scott said.
This ‘creep’ yard allows the calf to get close to Keepers and grow used to their presence, while Bakhita comfortably eats hay nearby. By encouraging this interaction from a young age, Keepers can develop an important bond with him, which helps to make working with the calf a positive experience as he grows into an adult Rhino.
“The new calf is one of the biggest Black Rhino calves born here at the Zoo, with an estimated birth weight of 35 to 40 kilograms. We’re pleased to see he is suckling very well from Bakhita,” Scott said.
“He has already been seen galloping around his behind the scenes enclosure and venturing a considerable distance from Bakhita for short periods of time. He’s an active calf and is very inquisitive about his surroundings.”
The calf is imitating eating behaviours by mouthing browse (leaves), but will only start to eat solid food at around three months of age. While Black Rhino are born without horns, the calf’s horn will soon begin growing at a rate of around half a centimetre to one centimetre per month.
The calf’s mother, Bakhita, is the first Black Rhino female to be born at Taronga Western Plains Zoo, with her arrival in 2002 being a widely celebrated occasion. The Zoo currently has three generations of Black Rhino. Bakhita’s daughter, Kufara, currently has a calf of her own - Mesi, born in April this year. The best time to see Kufara and Mesi is at the Black Rhino Keeper Talk at 9.25am daily.
Bakhita and her baby will remain behind the scenes as they continue to bond as mother and calf, and they will be on exhibit for the public to see early next year.
Taronga Western Plains Zoo is the only zoo in Australia to have successfully bred three species of rhino – the Black Rhino and White Rhino from Africa, and the Greater One-horned Rhino from Asia. The new calf is the 14th Black Rhino calf to be born at Taronga Western Plains Zoo.
Every Rhino birth is extremely important. Southern Black Rhinoceros are critically endangered with only an estimated 4000 left in the wild, predominantly due to poaching for their horns. Taronga is a founding member of the International Rhino Foundation, and in addition to the breeding conservation program, actively supports conservation efforts for wild Rhinos in Africa, Indonesia and India in areas including habitat protection, anti-poaching and reduction of human-rhino conflict.