Keepers and veterinary staff had been expecting the birth – the first for mother Beluki – but the speed of delivery was eye-opening. Beluki was in labour for just two and a half hours before the little calf was born safely onto a bed of hay in the indoor stable. The robust rhino – who already has the distinctive armour-plating skin – was up on his feet in just three hours and walking around two hours after that.
The birth of such a rare and endangered species is a delight to staff and keepers at the zoo and comes just 10 months after the first Asian one-horned rhino was born here for 17 years. Asha was born on the morning of New Year’s Eve 2006.
The Asian one-horned rhino is number 74 on the Top 100 EDGE list and there are currently as few as 2500 individuals left in the wild. Poaching, habitat loss and degredation still remain the major threats to this species, however the Indian and Nepalese governments are working with international conservation organisations to enforce laws protecting this species.
Commenting on the birth, ZSL curator Malcolm Fitzpatrick said: “Our second Asian rhino calf in the space of a year is excellent news for ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. Mother and calf are doing very well. It’s great for the herd at Whipsnade, for ZSL and is important for the European Endangered Species Programme.”
The new calf is still very young and enjoying the snug surroundings of its indoor barn. The public can get a good view of the new calf on a TV monitor which is positioned outside the Asian rhino house and is linked to the indoor stable with mother and baby.
The expanding herd will soon be able to enjoy new surroundings – a purpose-built indoor facility is under construction which will include heated pools and indoor viewing areas, due to open in February 2008.