A rare baby southern white rhinoceros has been born at a UK safari park, much to the delight of staff members. The little female calf, who is yet to be named, was born at Knowsley Safari Park, Merseyside, in October and is still finding her feet. Her proud mum, Meru, is also settling in to life as a parent after welcoming the new addition to the family.
Knowsley Safari Park has a long history of keeping animals. There are over 750 wild animals, from baboons to camels, wildebeest to rhinos, and has been open since the 19th century as part of the Knowsley estate.
We’ve got the first photos of the new calf, who is only a few days old but already weighs an impressive 10 stone. Keep reading to see them all.
A surprise arrival
The calf was born on Sunday 23 October after a very long pregnancy, and her birth was a shock for staff at the Prescot tourist attraction. It was a pleasant surprise because white rhinos have a gestation period of 16 to 18 months and, as Meru had passed her expected due date, it was thought that the pregnancy may not have progressed. Knowsley Safari’s Animal Operations Manager Chris Smart said: “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 that 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 calf has spent her first few days with mum Meru in the warmth and quiet of the rhino house, but visitors to the safari park 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. Staff will also soon be asking for the public to help name her.
The latest rhino calf to be born
The new rhino 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.
Mum Meru, who arrived at the safari in 1996 as a two-year-old, gave birth to the last baby rhino to be born at Knowsley Safari in 2018. She will nurse her new calf for around a year so visitors can expect to see her staying close to her youngest offspring as she explores her new surroundings and is introduced to the rest of the crash.
Chris Smart said: “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.”
Helping to prevent extinction of rhinos
Southern white rhinos are under threat from poaching for their horns, and so by breeding rhinos Knowsley Safari are helping to keep the species alive. There are just under 16,000 left in the wild today making them near threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list of endangered animals.
Chris Smart said: “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. 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.”