The San Diego Zoo has welcomed a baby southern white rhino into the family.
The zoo revealed the birth in a Monday social media post that included a video of the adorable, yet-to-be-named calf running around his enclosure and rolling in the mud in an attempt to keep cool from the California sun.
The newborn, who was conceived naturally, was born to first-time mama Livia and father J Gregory at the Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park on Aug. 6.
“Wildlife care specialists report the calf … is healthy, confident and full of energy, and that Livia is an excellent mother, very attentive and protective of her offspring,” the zoo said in a statement.
The zoo waited two weeks to share the good news in order to let Livia and her baby bond, a spokesperson from the zoo told the Post. The calf will likely be named within the next few weeks — and potentially in time for World Rhino Day on Sept. 22.
The birth is significant, the zoo emphasized, and serves as a crucial step in the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s Northern White Rhino Initiative’s goal of restoring white rhino populations. Livia joins Victoria and Amani as the rescue center’s female white rhinos who could carry a pregnancy to term and “potentially serve in the future as a surrogate mother to a northern white embryo.”
“The reason why it’s important is that eventually when we’re able to make a pure northern white embryo, one of these rhinos may carry it to term. And in order to do that, we want to make sure that they can carry a path and that they can prove they’re a good mother,” the spokesperson said, noting that Livia “showed these incredible maternal instincts” when she previously cared for an orphaned rhino.
Northern white rhinos are listed as “critically endangered” on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species and “possibly extinct in the wild.” Only two remain on earth, both females and unable to reproduce naturally.
Though not nearly as vulnerable, southern white rhinos are a near-threatened species with 18,000 animals in existence, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
Scientists are working to impregnate rhinos like Livia via artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer to hopefully save the northern white rhino population. The San Diego Zoo is home to the “Frozen Zoo,” the largest collection of animal cell cultures, oocytes, sperm, and embryos.
“Our Reproductive Sciences and Conservation Genetics teams are using the resources of the Frozen Zoo to study the potential for emerging stem cell technologies to rescue the northern white rhino from the brink of extinction,” the zoo website states.
The work being done to conserve the northern white rhino may also be applied to other rhino species, including critically endangered Sumatran and Javan rhinos.
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