x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Rhinoceros born at Al Ain Zoo

The as yet unnamed white rhinoceros calf is in good condition and being attended to with its mother by veterinarians.

A southern white rhinocerous with her new calf, the first to be born at Al Ain Zoo.
A southern white rhinocerous with her new calf, the first to be born at Al Ain Zoo.

AL AIN // Al Ain Zoo is seeking the public’s help in finding a name for their new baby rhinoceros.

The southern white rhino calf, born on February 19, loves mud baths and shaking his budding horn.

It is the first birth for his eight-year-old mother and nine-year-old father.

His parents are unnamed, semi-wild rhinos who were moved to Al Ain in November 2007 from South Africa, the home of most white rhinos.

The calf sleeps indoors with his  mother and a heater to help keep him warm since the temperature has been low in recent weeks.

“In the morning when he comes out of his room he is very playful,” said Dr Arshad Toosy, the zoo’s manager of veterinary operations. “He is doing all the normal things that rhinos do. He has a mud bath every day. He loves playing in the mud and the water.”

Despite the calf’s penchant for muck, he is known for his cleanliness – he urinates in one spot and covers his mess, a habit shared by cats.

“He was doing it from the first day,” said Dr Toosy with pride.

At times, the calf nibbles treats straight from Dr Toosy’s hands. On other occasions he shows “the normal aggressive behaviour” of rhinos and butts the air.

But overall, the calf is a mummy’s boy and has yet to be weighed because it will not stray from the mother’s side.

“We still cannot separate him – she will not let him go beyond a few metres. He’s always next to her,” Dr Toosy said.

The rhino weighed between 40 and 50 kilograms at birth, which is considered a healthy weight, and is gaining about 5kg a day. As a newborn he was fed every 30 minutes but he is now fed every hour.

“They grow fast so they can protect themselves and stay away from predators,” Dr Toosy said. “He has put on about 50 per cent of his weight. He’s a mini rhino, he’s not a newborn anymore.”

The rhino’s horn will start to appear when he is five or six months and will be fully developed when the animal reaches maturity at age seven or eight.

The calf and his mother are being attended by two carers.

Al Ain Zoo has two groups of rhinos – one male and one female, and one male and two females.

The calf will soon join its father and “aunt”.

“We are doing some soft introduction so they can see each other, they can sniff each other,” Dr Toosy said. At that point, the public will be able to meet the calf.

The zoo will offer more information about how people can suggest names soon.

azacharias@thenational.ae