Second southern white rhino calf conceived through artificial insemination at San Diego Zoo Safari Park
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – The San Diego Zoo Tuesday announced the birth of a southern white rhino calf at the Safari Park.
The healthy female calf was born just before 1 a.m. Nov. 21 at the Safari Park’s Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center and is nursing well and bonding with her mother, 11-year-old Amani. The calf’s birth represents the second successful artificial insemination of a southern white rhino in North America, according to zoo officials.
“We are very pleased Amani did so well with the birth of her first calf, and she is being very attentive to her baby,” said Barbara Durrant, San Diego Zoo Global’s Henshaw endowed director of reproductive sciences. “The calf is up and walking, and nursing frequently, which are all good signs.”
Animal care staff inseminated Amani in July 2018 and she ultimately carried her calf for 498 days. Animal care staff also artificially inseminated southern white rhino Victoria in March 2018. Victoria gave birth to her calf, Edward, at the end of July.
The two births represent a step toward the zoo’s longer-term goal of recovering the northern white rhino, a distant relative of the southern white rhino. Currently, only two northern white rhinos still exist on the planet and both are female.
Zoo officials aim to use stem cells and preserved northern white rhino cells to birth a northern white rhino calf within 10-20 years. The zoo’s southern white rhinos would serve as surrogates for the northern white rhino embryos through artificial insemination, in-vitro fertilization or an embryo transfer.
If the plan proves successful, researchers could attempt similar assisted reproduction techniques with the critically endangered Sumatran and Javan rhinos.
“The birth of each rhino calf is a moment for celebration,” San Diego Zoo Global President and CEO Paul Baribault said. “Although we rejoice with each birth, we know that the recovery of a species requires collaborative work to build sustainable populations that can thrive in native habitats.”
Amani and her yet-unnamed calf will remain in a private habitat to continue bonding and allow the calf to nurse and grow. Edward first began meeting with other rhinos in the Safari Park’s herd at the beginning of October. Victoria and Edward and the rest of the herd can be viewed at the Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center from the Safari Park’s Africa Tram.
The San Diego Zoo Global’s full press release announcing the birth is below:
A 4-day-old female southern white rhino calf bonds with her mother at the Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Eleven year-oldAmani, gave birth to the healthy calf Nov. 21, 2019, at 12:56 a.m. in the barn at the Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center. The birth of this calf marks the conservation organization’s second rhino born following hormone-induced ovulation and artificial insemination. This calf’s birth also is a milestone as she is the 100th southern white rhino born at the Safari Park.Artificial insemination of southern white rhinos has rarely been successful; this is only the second successful artificial insemination birth of a southern white rhino in North America. The first was Edward, born to mom, Victoria, at the Safari Park’s Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center on July 28 of this year.The artificial insemination and successful birth of the rhino calf is not only a historic event for San Diego Zoo Global, but it represents a critical step in the organization’s ongoing work to develop the scientific knowledge required to genetically recover the northern white rhino, a distant subspecies of the southern white rhino. Only two northern white rhinos currently remain on Earth and, unfortunately, both are female.San Diego Zoo Global has a history of expertise with rhino species. With the birth of this calf, there have now been 100 southern white rhinos born at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, in addition to births of 74 greater one-horned rhinos and 14 black rhinos at the Safari Park. The challenges associated with limited gene pools and severely reduced numbers facing Javan rhinos, Sumatran rhinos and northern white rhinos mean that some form of assisted reproduction may be their only hope for the future. Amani and her calf will remain in their private habitat for an undisclosed period of time, to allow them to bond. The calf will eventually be introduced to the other rhinos living at the Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center, including her potential playmate, 4-month-old, Edward.On any given day, visitors to the Safari Park may be able to see one or more of the southern white rhinos living at the Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center from the Africa Tram. The public can help support San Diego Zoo Global’s rhino conservation efforts through the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy at endextinction.org/rhino or endextinction.org/Amani. There are an estimated 18,000 southern white rhinos remaining in the wild. The southern white rhino is classified as Near Threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species, due to poaching threats and illegal trafficking of rhino horn. Currently, one rhino dies every eight hours in South Africa as a result of poaching.