A rare Southern Black Rhinoceros calf born at Taronga Western Plains Zoo on October 31 last year now has a name! In acknowledgement of his Halloween birth, Keepers have chosen the name Pampoen for the male calf, which means “pumpkin” in an African language.
Announcing the name in Dubbo today was Optus Ambassador and Big Bash League Melbourne Stars batsman, Kevin Pietersen. The rhino advocate and former English cricket captain was visiting Dubbo to witness firsthand the work being done in Australia to conserve rhinos, and to continue to spread his important message for rhino conservation.
“I’m thrilled to meet this special Black Rhino calf and learn about the critical rhino breeding and conservation work happening on the ground, here at Taronga Western Plains Zoo,” Pietersen said.
“Rhinos are magnificent animals and what is happening to them in the wild is unacceptable, with a rhino being killed in Africa every eight hours. It’s absolutely tragic and it’s my mission to increase awareness of their plight and to stop their slaughter. I want my children and children around the world to be able to grow up learning about these incredible animals, not as historical artefacts, but as living, breathing examples of the wonder of our world.”
Pietersen’s Dubbo visit occurs in the lead up to his farewell “Rhino Match” in the Big Bash League for the Melbourne Stars at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on 27 January 2018.
The Melbourne Stars v Hobart Hurricanes match will support The Australian Rhino Project (TARP), another organisation committed to helping secure a future for rhinos.
“This match is an amazing opportunity to not only raise awareness for rhinos but also raise essential funds to help stop their slaughter,” Pietersen said. “I really encourage people to attend the event, and if they can’t get there to tune in from home, as we continue our important conservation efforts.”
Taronga Western Plains Zoo Director Steve Hinks said it was a pleasure to welcome Pietersen to the Zoo. “We are so proud to share Taronga’s rhino conservation work, undertaken both here in Dubbo and in the wild, with a fellow rhino advocate. We admire Kevin’s efforts to raise awareness and funds for the conservation of rhino species,” Mr Hinks said.
Pampoen has been behind the scenes since his birth, bonding with his mother Bakhita, and will be on display for the public to see from next week.
“At three months of age, he weighs approximately 120 kilograms and is already showing a big, playful personality,” Keeper Nerida Taylor said. “He is the second Black Rhino calf born at the Zoo in 2017, and the 14th calf born to our Black Rhino conservation breeding program.”
Pampoen’s mother, Bakhita, was the first Black Rhino female to be born at Taronga Western Plains Zoo, with her arrival in 2002 being widely celebrated. Bakhita’s own daughter, Kufara, currently has a female calf of her own, Mesi, born in April last year, representing the third generation of the Zoo’s breeding program.
Southern Black Rhinos are critically endangered with only an estimated 4000 remaining in the wild, predominantly due to poaching for their horn. Poaching has increased dramatically in recent years, driven by the demand for rhino horn in Asian countries.
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. Taronga is a founding member of the International Rhino Foundation, and 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.