The arrival of a critically endangered rhino calf born at Chester Zoo last month is being celebrated by conservationists around the globe.
New mum Ema Elsa gave birth to the female eastern black rhino on 29th October, following a 15-month-long pregnancy, with the zoo’s CCTV cameras capturing the incredible moment the little one arrived.
With fewer than 1000 eastern black rhino now remaining worldwide, the population in zoos across Europe is vital to the long-term future of the species.
Chester Zoo is responsible for managing the European breeding programme for the eastern black rhino and last year reintroduced five rhinos from the European population to Rwanda, Africa.
Andrew McKenzie, Team Manager of rhinos at the zoo, said:
“The birth of a critically endangered eastern black rhino is always very special. And to be able to watch on camera as a calf is born is an incredible privilege – with rhino numbers so, so low it, sadly, isn’t something that’s captured very often. Seeing the little one then get to her feet with a gentle nudge from mum; take her first tentative steps and suckle for the first time is then the icing on the cake. It really is heart-warming stuff.
“The whole team here is overjoyed. Mum and calf have bonded wonderfully and have been showing us all of the right signs. These rhinos have been pushed to the very edge of existence and every single addition to the European endangered species breeding programme is celebrated globally. It’s sadly no exaggeration to say that it’s entirely possible that we could lose them forever within our lifetime and the world’s most progressive zoos are very much part of the fight to prevent their extinction.”
The eastern black rhino is listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as critically endangered. In the wild, they are now found only in Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda, with the multibillion-pound illegal wildlife trade driving the species towards extinction.
Andrew added: “In the short term, Ema Elsa and her new baby will help to highlight the perilous position that this species is in and we hope they encourage more people to join the fight to prevent the extinction of these gentle giants. In the future, as we work to ensure more safe areas, we hope Ema and her offspring, like others before them born into the European breeding programme, are one day able to make the journey back to Africa.”
The zoo has launched a Facebook poll inviting the public to help name the new arrival, with shortlisted the names chosen by the keepers including Kasulu (a town in Tanzania), Koshi (meaning ‘to try’) and Kaari (meaning ‘young girl/young daughter’).
Chester Zoo is currently home to nine critically endangered eastern black rhinos and two greater one-horned rhinos. To find out more visit www.chesterzoo.org.