The San Diego Zoo Tuesday announced the birth of a southern white rhino calf at the Safari Park. Photo courtesy San Diego Zoo Safari Park

The San Diego Zoo Tuesday announced the birth of a southern white rhino calf at the Safari Park.

The healthy female calf was born just before 1 a.m. Nov. 21 at the Safari Park’s Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center and is nursing well and bonding with her mother, 11-year-old Amani. The calf’s birth represents the second successful artificial insemination of a southern white rhino in North America, according to zoo officials.

“We are very pleased Amani did so well with the birth of her first calf, and she is being very attentive to her baby,” said Barbara Durrant, San Diego Zoo Global’s Henshaw endowed director of reproductive sciences. “The calf is up and walking, and nursing frequently, which are all good signs.”

Animal care staff inseminated Amani in July 2018 and she ultimately carried her calf for 498 days. Animal care staff also artificially inseminated southern white rhino Victoria in March 2018. Victoria gave birth to her calf, Edward, at the end of July.

The two births represent a step toward the zoo’s longer-term goal of recovering the northern white rhino, a distant relative of the southern white rhino. Currently, 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.

“The birth of each rhino calf is a moment for celebration,” San Diego Zoo Global President and CEO Paul Baribault said. “Although we rejoice with each birth, we know that the recovery of a species requires collaborative work to build sustainable populations that can thrive in native habitats.”

Amani and her yet-unnamed calf will remain in a private habitat to continue bonding and allow the calf to nurse and grow. Edward first began meeting with other rhinos in the Safari Park’s herd at the beginning of October. Victoria and Edward and the rest of the herd can be viewed at the Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center from the Safari Park’s Africa Tram.

–City News Service

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