A critically endangered Eastern black rhino calf has been born at Pembrokeshire zoo, Folly Farm.
After a 15-month pregnancy, first-time mum Dakima gave birth to a healthy male calf on 16th January – one of only an estimated 40 Eastern black rhinos to be born in the UK in the past 20 years.
Eastern black rhinos are classed as critically endangered due to poaching and loss of habitat. There are thought to be fewer than 650 left in the wild and around 87 in zoos across Europe, including Folly Farm’s new addition.
Born just ten minutes after the mum’s waters broke, the calf made its appearance at 4:37am and within a couple of hours was standing up, following Dakima around the enclosure and suckling from mum.
Six-year-old Eastern black rhino, Dakima, arrived at Folly Farm in May 2017 as part of a breeding programme and met the love of her life, nine-year-old male Nkosi. Mating rhinos can be unpredictable, but their relationship blossomed and Dakima is thought to have conceived in October 2018.
Folly Farm zoo curator, Tim Morphew, said: “We couldn’t be happier to welcome our new arrival – Dakima has taken to motherhood like a duck to water. She’s being very protective of the baby which is great because it shows they have a strong bond.
“This is the most important baby ever to be born at Folly Farm and is such a monumental event for all the staff here. Ever since the breeding pair arrived in 2017, we’ve worked hard to create an environment where they’ve felt comfortable to mate.
“Not only is this calf helping to increase numbers of a critically endangered species, he’s also the first rhino ever to be born in Wales.”
Along with other zoos across Europe, Folly Farm is part of a breeding programme to help increase the numbers of Eastern black rhino in captivity and, ultimately, the wild.
Tim continued: “Most animals give birth at night under the cover of darkness and Dakima was no exception.
“Our keeper Rachel Puncher was the first person to find the baby rhino waiting for her in the enclosure on Thursday morning and had to double check before telling the rest of the team the good news. We then checked the CCTV to find out the time of birth and exactly how it happened.
“We then left Dakima alone, giving her some space to bond with the new arrival – but we continued to monitor them on the cameras and did regular spot checks to ensure baby was starting to feed.
“For us, the next steps are just to keep an eye on Dakima and make sure the baby stays healthy and gets everything he needs from mum. Our goal is always to interfere as little as possible and let nature take its course.
“Nkosi will be a bit of an absent father, but that’s perfectly normal as male rhinos don’t have anything to do with their offspring in the wild so it’s unlikely we’ll introduce him to the baby – his job is done.
“In the wild rhino calves can stay with their mums for up to four years, after that there’s a possibility this baby could one day be released into the wild to help boost population numbers – or move to another zoo to continue the breeding programme in Europe.
“It’s exciting to be playing our part in helping to safeguard these amazing animals for future generations.”
It’s thought that the calf weighs between a healthy 30-45 kg. Folly Farm’s rhino keepers will monitor mum and baby closely over the coming weeks and although guests won’t be able to see them just yet, they will be back out in the enclosure in due course.
Updates will be shared on Folly Farm’s social media accounts.
Folly Farm’s Kifaru Reserve is a £500,000 purpose-built exhibit which tells the story of the role of modern zoos in conservation and highlights Folly Farm’s hands-on commitment to conservation through the projects it supports in the wild and closer to home.
For further information please visit www.folly-farm.co.uk.