NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia Zoo is celebrating the birth of its first ever southern white rhinoceros.
The baby of Zina and Sibindi was born on Sunday, July 11, the zoo announced Monday.
“We are absolutely thrilled to welcome this baby, who will serve as an ambassador to its species in the wild,” said Greg Bockheim, Executive Director of the Virginia Zoo. “Because of the demand for their horns, rhinos are often killed daily. A baby animal’s cuteness piques the interest of everyone, but then we are able to share their conservation story and the ways we can protect their species.”
The male baby, which measured around 125 pounds and 22 inches in height, is strong and nursing well, the zoo reports. He’s bonding with first-time mom Zina, who’s been very attentive.
Her pregnancy lasted 16 months and 21 days (the typical gestation period is 16-18 months).
“The pregnancy was confirmed via ultrasound in February,” said Dr. Tara Reilly. “We were able to give some general time frames, but this last month became very apparent we were in the birth window,” Dr. Reilly added. The Animal Care Team collaborated to create a birth plan for Zina, which included routine checkups, diet changes, training Zina for voluntary weekly blood draws, voluntary milk collection, installing a baby monitor (camera to keep an eye on Zina during around-the-clock-watches) and even baby proofing the rhino exhibit.
There are now four rhinos at the zoo: Sibindi, 18, Zina, 8, Bora, 7, and the new calf. Southern white rhinos, which were once thought to be extinct due to poaching and habitat loss, are now classified as near threatened.
The baby and Zina will continue to stay indoors and be monitored for several weeks. In the meantime, the zoo is auctioning off naming rights for the baby to raise funds for rhino conservation.
You can place bids on the calf’s name through July 30 at virginiazoo.org/babyrhino.