By Anna Dutton
For the first time, a baby rhino has been born in Wales. A healthy male calf was born on Folly Farm in Pembrokeshire earlier on January 16 weighing between 30 and 45kg. The new arrival is an Eastern Black rhino, a critically endangered species, with the baby adding to the small 650 Eastern Black rhinos that are left in the wild.
Due to poaching and a loss of habitat, only a small number remain in the wild with 87 Eastern Black rhinos being cared for in zoos across Europe at the moment. In an attempt to increase the species’ numbers, Folly Farm is part of a breeding programme which spans across different European countries. The baby’s parents, Dakima (mother) and Nkosi (father), were introduced in 2017 and although there can sometimes be difficulties with getting rhinos to mate, the pair’s romance blossomed, the zoo reported. It was announced that Dakima was pregnant in October 2018. By creating the conditions for couples to mate, the breeding programme’s aim is to increase the numbers of rhinos in captivity, and hopefully release them to the wild if enough pairs are able to reproduce.
In the wild, baby rhinos are born under the cover of darkness, so this also happened at the zoo. Only a couple of hours after the baby was born, he was taking his first steps around the enclosure following his mum. Tim Morphew, the curator at Folly Farm, said that Dakima “is being very protective of the baby which is great because it shows they have a strong bond.” Tim went on to say that “this is the most important baby ever to be born at Folly Farm and is such a monumental event for all the staff here.” The calf’s father will remain absent as this is what happens in the wild, so the team at the zoo say it is unlikely he will be introduced to his son.
Over the coming weeks, the staff at Folly Farm zoo will monitor their new arrival to ensure the calf remains healthy and gets everything he needs from mum. To encourage a relationship that is as close to being in the wild as they can, staff will try to interfere as little as possible to make sure that the bond between mother and baby builds well and stays strong. In the wild, it is expected that rhino calves stay with their mothers for four years, so the zoo will replicate this. After this, there is a possibility that the baby may be released back into the wild or transferred to another zoo to continue the breeding programme across Europe.
At the time of writing, the newborn at Folly Farm doesn’t yet have a name, but what he represents illustrates that with the right intervention and support from humans, endangered species like the Eastern Black rhino, are able to increase their numbers which hopefully saves them from extinction.
For any more details on the story or to track the baby’s progress, Folly Farm zoo has a number of social media outlets you can follow.