We had a delightful sight on the morning of Tuesday 14 May 2013, when we arrived at work to find a little male White Rhino calf in the night yards with his mother Mopani. It was clear the calf was only hours old as he was still a little wobbly on his feet. The excitement and elation was clear to see not just on the Zoo keepers faces but across all of the staff at the Zoo as news spread of the new arrival! It is a stark contrast to this time last year when we were grieving for the loss of four White Rhinos, something that really affected everyone as we are so passionate about our animals.
Mopani, the mother of the calf, was one of the White Rhinos affected by the illness, but pulled through with the assistance of supportive medications from our veterinary team and today has helped to signal the re-birth for the White Rhino breeding program at Taronga Western Plains Zoo.
We need these breeding successes to help us contribute to the survival of rhinoceros in the wild, where they are being slaughter by poachers for their horns.
Whilst the father has nothing to do with the raising of the calf, Umfana has played an important role in its creation. This is his third calf and second male calf!
It is moments like this that you become a Zoo keeper for. To see Mopani being such a fabulous mother to her first calf is just amazing, she is gentle and caring and seems to be quite proud of herself. Her calf is also doing well and is quite easy going and seems to like being the centre of attention.
This is now the ninth calf born to the White Rhino breeding program since 2003, when five White Rhinos arrived from Kruger National Park to help create greater genetic diversity in the region’s population.
The calf will stay with his mum for the next two years before he is weaned. Visitors may glimpse Mopani and the calf along with another adult female Likewizi on exhibit at the Zoo in coming days.
By Senior White Rhino keeper, Pascale Benoit