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Rhino Calf Kipenzi’s First Birthday

30 May 2014

Werribee Open Range Zoo’s Southern White Rhino calf, Kipenzi marked her first birthday today on Friday 30 May.

It’s a huge milestone for Kipenzi and for the team at the Zoo who have hand-raised Kipenzi since birth.

Following her birth on 30 May last year, the veterinary team worked around the clock to care for her, coming in for late night and early morning feeds and getting her through bouts of colic.

The team affectionately gave her gave her the nickname Peppa, after the character Peppa Pig and formed a very strong bond with the calf over many months of care.

Kipenzi spent two months at the vet hospital under very close monitoring as she continued to develop and form bonds with Keepers, before visitors were able to see her for the first time.

Our Zoo Members and the Victorian community helped us name the young calf, voting on Kipenzi – which means precious in Swahili.

At three months of age, Kipenzi reached another major milestone in her development and moved off display from the vet hospital to a new protected enclosure at the Zoo’s back of house rhino facilities where she could begin her introduction to the rest of the herd.

Kipenzi’s introduction to the herd has been a very slow and delicate process, conducted over many months.

After becoming comfortable and familiar with the new surroundings the next step in process was protected visual contact with female rhinos Sisi and Letaba.

After a few weeks and months of supervised fence contact a bond began to form between them, particularly between Kipenzi and her mother Sisi.

Keepers were able to slowly increase the duration of this fence to fence contact as Kipenzi and Sisi developed their relationship.

Now one year on, Keepers have been supervising daily sessions with Kipenzi and Sisi in the same enclosure and are gradually increasing the time that they spend together as Kipenzi’s confidence builds.

The team are thrilled to see that the interactions between mother and calf have been very positive so far.

Kipenzi is curious and cautious around Sisi but has moments of cheekiness, as she tests the boundaries with a mock charge or playfully circles around mum.

In return, Sisi has been gentle and patient with Kipenzi, which is very important as Kipenzi learns how to interact with other rhinos.

Kipenzi still has a long way to go in the introduction process, but she’s making great progress.