Rhino mother and calf at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park
Rhino mother and calf at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Photo byvTammy Spratt / San Diego Zoo Safari Park

The San Diego Zoo has named a three-day old southern white rhino calf at its Safari Park “Edward” in honor of the Ellen Browning Scripps Foundation’s financial support of rhino research.

Edward Willis Scripps was the founder of media conglomerate The E. W. Scripps Co. and a half-brother of Ellen Browning Scripps.

The healthy male calf was born on Sunday, the first of the species to be born through artificial insemination in North America. Animal care staff helped his mother, Victoria, conceive in March 2018 through hormone-induced ovulation and artificial insemination, which has seldom been successful for southern white rhinos.

Victoria and Edward are bonding well in a secluded nursing area of the Safari Park. Zoo officials said the calf is nursing well and full of energy. The calf is the 99th southern white rhino born at the Safari Park.

“We could not be more pleased with how well mom and baby are doing,” said Jonnie Capiro, the Safari Park’s lead keeper, on Wednesday. “Victoria is such a good, protective mom, and so attentive to her calf. We are so proud of her.”

In addition to the historical significance of Edward’s conception, his birth also represents a step toward the zoo’s longer-term goal of recovering the northern white rhino, a distant relative of the southern white rhino. 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.

Victoria and Edward are expected to remain secluded indefinitely to allow them to bond before the calf is introduced to the other rhinos at the Safari Park’s Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center, according to zoo officials.

The Safari Park is expecting a second southern white rhino birth in September or October. The zoo announced that calf’s conception through artificial insemination last September

— City News Service

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.