Not one, but TWO baby white Rhinos born at North Carolina Zoo
July 20, 2018
Two female southern white rhinos, part of a species that was once hunted to near extinction, were born two weeks apart at the zoo. The first is an 80- to 90- pound female calf that was born on July 2. The calf was the first born at the zoo in 41 years. The rhino is expected to gain about 100 pounds every month in her first year and eventually weigh about 3,500 to 5,500 pounds as an adult. Her parents are Linda and Stormy, two other rhinos that are part of the Zoo’s herd. Then in the overnight hours of July 13, a second calf was born in the Watani Grasslands habitat. It’s part of the zoo’s public viewing area. Kit is the calf’s mother.
"Every birth at the North Carolina Zoo is special and these two rhino births are particularly so,” said Pat Simmons, the zoo's executive director. “Each new rhino born is a success story for this species as a whole. The zoo is committed to being part of conservation initiatives both within the zoo community and internationally in order to ensure the survival of this species.”
Back in 2008, the North Carolina Zoo launched an ambitious expansion of its 40-acre Watani Grasslands Reserve. The open, rolling exhibit copied the African grasslands, and was designed specifically for a breeding rhino herd, which now numbers eight animals.
Southern white rhinos are hunted for their horns, which some cultures believe are an aphrodisiac. They were nearing extinction at the beginning of the 20th century and are still threatened by poaching and loss of habitat. Zoo staff is involved in several projects to protect white rhinos in southern Africa. The zoo’s herd now consists of Stormy and females Linda and her female calf (yet unnamed), Kit (and unnamed female calf), Natalie and Abby. Two older rhinos, Stan (male) and Olivia (female) live in an off-viewing retirement habitat for a total of nine rhinos living at the North Carolina Zoo.
The second-largest land mammal after elephants, rhinos are pregnant anywhere from 16-18 months (elephants are pregnant for approximately 24 months). A female rhino will only give birth every two to five years. At full maturity, a southern white rhino will have two horns, grow to 12-13 feet long and up to 6 feet from hoof to shoulder, and weigh 4,000 to 5,000 pounds. They can live 40-50 years and run at impressive speeds of up to 30 miles per hour.
The Zoo has had rhinos since 1976. It’s breeding program is part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) to keep a sustainable population of southern white rhinos under human care. The Zoo is also involved in global conservation efforts to save this species. Both baby rhinos do not have names yet. The Zoo is planning a naming contest that will be announced on its website.
Frank Graff is a producer/reporter with UNC-TV, focusing on Sci Tech Now North Carolina, a weekly science series that airs Tuesdays on UNC-TV. In addition to producing these special segments, Frank will provide additional information related to his stories through this North Carolina Science Now Reporter's Blog!