Precious rhino calf born at Werribee Open Range Zoo
Werribee Open Range Zoo is celebrating the arrival of a Southern white rhino calf – the first calf of this threatened species to born at the zoo in almost a decade.
First-time mother Kipenzi gave birth just before 4am on Tuesday [March 21] to the female calf who weighs just over 60 kilograms.
The birth follows a 16-month pregnancy during which Kipenzi and her calf’s health has been carefully monitored by Zoo veterinarians and zookeepers.
Following the birth, keepers observed an absence of healthy bonding, with the calf not thriving as expected during the important first hours of infancy. After consultation with the zoo’s veterinary team, the calf was brought to the zoo’s vet clinic for medical checks and supplementary feeding.
Werribee Open Range Zoo Director Dr Mark Pilgrim said the calf is being provided with around-the-clock feeds of colostrum obtained from its mother.
“The calf’s health has begun to improve, and it is now in the process of being reintroduced to mum,” Dr Pilgrim said. “However, it will continue to remain under veterinary care during these critical early days.
Keepers and vets are additionally monitoring the post-birth health of Kipenzi to ensure she is being provided with the highest quality care. This includes daily check-ups and observations via remote installed cameras.
Southern white rhinos are listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List with their population in decline. There is an estimated 10,080 remaining in the wild with significant threats including poaching and the illegal trading of rhino horn.
The birth of the calf is a major milestone for the Zoo and the conservation of Southern white rhinos in the Australasian region. Currently they are listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List with their population in decline. There is an estimated 10,080 remaining in the wild with significant threats including poaching and the illegal trading of rhino horn.
Dr Pilgrim said Werribee Open Range Zoo team was delighted to welcome the beautiful rhino calf to the family.
“The arrival of this precious calf is an important achievement in the fight to save the species from extinction, and we are excited that visitors will be able to view the pair once we have navigated these typically high-risk early days following the birth,” he said.
This is the first calf born to nine-year-old Kipenzi and 13-year-old male Kifaru [pronounced: Ki-far-oo] who were paired in 2019 as part of the Australasian rhino regional breeding and conservation program.
Updates on the calf's progress will be provided via Zoos Victoria’s social channels, including when Zoo visitors will be able to see the calf.
The newborn will be named in coming weeks through a voting competition for Zoos Victoria members.
While Kipenzi and her calf continue to develop their important bond in a private area, Werribee Open Range Zoo visitors are still able to see Southern white rhino on the Zoo’s savannah while on a safari bus ride, included with Zoo entry. New-father Kifaru is separated from mother and calf, replicating what occurs in the wild.
Zoos Victoria and Werribee Open Range Zoo visitors are reminded that all tickets must be pre-booked online at zoo.org.au. Zoos Victoria Members no longer need to book but are required to scan their Membership card for entry.