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Baby Rhino Born at Zoo Atlanta is First in its History

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Aug 20, 2013 11:59 AM EDT
Eastern Black Rhino Calf
Over the weekend a seven-year-old rhinoceros gave birth to a baby boy at Zoo Atlanta; the eastern black rhino calf is the first to be born at the zoo in its 124 year history. (Photo : Zoo Atlanta via Facebook )

Over the weekend a seven-year-old rhinoceros gave birth to a baby boy at Zoo Atlanta; the eastern black rhino calf is the first to be born at the zoo in its 124 year history.

The yet-to-be-named calf is not on exhibit for now, but zoo staff have expressed their excitement of the news online and in an official statement.

"We couldn't be more delighted about this birth. Not only is this a first for Zoo Atlanta, going all the way back to our founding in 1889, but this is a critically endangered species that absolutely deserves the spotlight right now," said Raymond B. King, the zoo's president and CEO.

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Both the calf and its mother Andazi appear to be healthy and are getting along well. Andazi is providing appropriate maternal care for the calf. Rhinos have one of the longest gestation periods in the animal kingdom, capable of carrying a baby for as long as 18 months. The calf will be weened off its mother's milk when it is two years old, but may remain with its mother until it is four years old.

A Facebook user asked the zoo if the calf was able to stand right away after birth, to which the zoo replied: "He was able to stand within about 2 hours of birth, which is considered within the normal time range. So not right away, but not very much later either!"

The calf was sired by a nine-year-old black rhino named Utenzi. It is the first calf for the pair, but they will not share the space with their newborn, the zoo said. In the wild, black rhinos are solitary and only come together for breeding.

Native to east Africa, the zoo reports that black rhino populations were nearly wiped out in the 1980s due to over-hunting. The populations remains critically endangered, and a recent surge in demand of rhino horn in Vietnam and China has propelled its value to more than its weight in gold. Rhinos across Africa are threatened by poachers. Last week a rhino was slaughtered in one of the most secure game reserves in Africa.

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