A rare baby southern white rhinoceros has just been born at Merseyside’s Knowsley Safari.
The southern white rhino calf arrived safely into the world on the evening of Sunday 23 October, to mother Meru, following a calm and relaxed labour.
The birth was a welcome surprise to the Knowsley Safari team as white rhinos have a gestation period of 16 to 18 months and, as Meru had past her expected due date, it was thought that the pregnancy may not have progressed.
The calf has spent her first few days with mum Meru in the warmth and quiet of the rhino house, and already weighs a whopping 10 stone. Visitors to the safari are expected to get a first glimpse of her over the coming days when she’ll venture out into the outdoor enclosure, with mum, for the very first time.
The new calf is the 22nd be born at Knowsley Safari and is another success of the extensive European Association of Zoos and Aquaria’s (EAZA) Ex-situ breeding programme. The 100-acre habitat at Knowsley Safari provides plenty of space for its crash of eight white rhinos and it has been very successful breeding this species and has made a significant contribution to the programme.
Mum Meru – who arrived at the safari in 1996, when she was two years old, from her birthplace of Edinburgh Zoo – gave birth to the last baby rhino to be born at Knowsley Safari back in 2018. She will nurse the new calf for around a year so visitors can expect to see her sticking close to her curious offspring as she explores her new surroundings and is introduced to the rest of the crash.
The calf is as yet unnamed, and the safari will be asking for help to name her soon.
Knowsley Safari’s Animal Operations Manager Chris Smart said, “This is yet another very exciting step forward in the conservation of this species and we are over the moon to welcome our 22nd southern white rhino calf to be born here.
“As a very experienced mother, Meru has quickly adapted to being a mum again, and her calf is already up and about. Each day that passes, she becomes a little more active and is already running around– she’s certainly very curious and confident.
“Her arrival was unexpected until very recently. Despite previously confirming the pregnancy, Meru’s due date past so we assumed she was no longer was. We didn’t see any signs of pregnancy until just a few weeks before calving, when she was in its latter stages. The keepers were keeping a very close eye on her and spotted the signs of the impending birth last weekend and prepared the rhino house with a deep layer of straw to help the calf to stand – which typically happens just an hour later. It was such a happy turn of events.
“The whole team here is absolutely delighted. Mum and calf have bonded wonderfully and have been showing us all of the right signs. Numbers of these rhinos have been so low and every single addition to the EAZA Ex-situ breeding programme is celebrated.
“We’re thrilled to play our part in the fight to prevent their extinction and are so proud of the great work we’re doing to safeguard the future of this species. It’s amazing to welcome another little one.”
Southern white rhinos remain under threat from poaching for their horns. There are just under 16,000 left in the wild today making them “near threatened” on the IUCN red list of endangered animals.