Elated Australian zookeepers have been keeping a lid on a big secret. A rare Southern black rhinoceros was born on Halloween, the second such birth this year at Taronga Western Plains Zoo. Zoo officials made the giddy announcement in late November.
Mother Bakhita and father Kwanzaa are old hands at raising a young rhino, especially Bakhita, who has a daughter, Kufara. Kufara gave birth to her own daughter, Mesi, in April, making the black rhinos at the zoo a true family affair.
As for the new member of the family, he is doing very well, according to zookeepers. "At just two weeks of age, the calf was showing his confidence and interacting with Keepers via a 'creep' yard — a fence opening large enough for the baby to pass through, but too small for Bakhita," keeper Scott Smith said.
The creep yard is an important part of the young rhino's development in the zoo. The yard allows the rhino to become used to the human keepers around it while Bakhita stays a safe distance away. In addition to bonding with his human handlers, the baby rhino is miming eating behaviors, like browsing for leaves, even if he's not eating them; it'll be at least another two months before the rhino is on solid foods.
Currently, Bakhita and the newborn aren't on view to the public as they continue to bond, but they'll make their debut in early 2018.
Southern black rhinos are critically endangered in the wild, with an estimated 4,000 left. The Taronga Zoo has engaged in rhino breeding and conservation efforts, with black and white rhinos from Africa and the greater one-horned rhino from Asia thriving in their care.
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