A white rhino calf born at an Australian zoo is doing what babies do best: snoozing, eating, cuddling and making mischief.
Staff at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo were delighted when the male calf suddenly appeared next to his mother Mopani early on June 16.
Zookeepers had been watching over the mum-to-be in the lead-up to the birth, after a gestation period of up to 18 months.
“I went up and checked Mopani and she was like ‘no, nothing to see here’,” keeper Fiona Cameron said from the zoo in central west NSW.
“So I wandered away and did a few things and came back … suddenly there was this calf that popped up from behind her.
“He was dry and he was moving around, so he’d been on the ground for a few hours, probably overnight.
“What a thrill.”
The zoo said the new arrival makes it one of the largest holders of southern white rhinos in the Australasian region, which is critical for conservation and raising awareness about the near-threatened species.
The World Wildlife Fund says there are roughly 18,000 southern white rhinos in the world, many in protected areas, and it is the only rhino species not considered endangered.
The animals have long been poached for their horns, which are used in dubious health tonics or as dagger handles.
Ms Cameron said the baby was an ambassador for the species.
“He’ll be a new breeding male in the region when he grows up, so an important animal.”
At two weeks old, the yet to be named calf is hitting typical newborn milestones of suckling, sleeping and putting on weight under his thick hide.
Mopani spent a week bonding with him before they moved to the main paddock, on display with another older female called Likwezi.
“He stirs his aunt up a fair bit and causes a little bit of trouble, but that’s OK,” Ms Cameron said.
“He’s very active and inquisitive about his surroundings and moving around with mum really well.”
The calf was sired by Umfana, who lived at the Dubbo zoo for 20 years before moving to Monarto Safari Park in South Australia in 2022.
(Australian Associated Press)