Southern White Rhino Future
Future, a southern white rhino born at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, plays in some mud. The organization said the calf’s name celebrates the hope she brings to future rhino conservation worldwide. Photo courtesy of the San Diego Zoo.

San Diego Zoo officials announced Monday that a nearly 3-week-old southern white rhino calf has been named Future for what she represents to the field of rhino conservation as one of only two calves in North America born via artificial insemination.

Future was born in the early morning hours of Nov. 21 at the Safari Park’s Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center to her mother, 11-year-old Amani. Future is the second southern white rhino calf born at the Safari Park this year; southern white rhino Victoria gave birth to her calf, Edward, at the end of July. Edward was also conceived through artificial insemination, according to zoo officials.

“Future’s new favorite thing is mud. She sees a puddle and she wants to roll in it!” Safari Park senior keeper Marco Zeno said. “Future is not only exhibiting natural rhino behavior, she appears to be having a ton of fun doing it.”

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.

Amani and 19-day old Future 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