Horn tooting

Baby rhino brings joy to Ramat Gan Safari

Southern white rhinoceros Tanda gives birth to healthy 50-kilogram calf, another step toward preserving the threatened species

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

The Zoological Center Tel Aviv-Ramat Gan, popularly known as the safari, announced on Monday that one of its rhinoceroses had given birth to a healthy female baby.

It was the fifth calf born to Tanda, a 25-year-old southern white rhino, and came after three males and a female.

Six months ago safari keepers caught Atari, a male rhino, in the act with Tanda and were delighted when their liaison led to a pregnancy. Atari is also the father of Tanda’s last calf, Tupak — named after the Swahili word for “fighter.”

The new calf, born three weeks ago, has not yet been named. The safari often offers a shortlist of names for the public to choose from when naming their animals.

During the pregnancy Tanda had remained close to Tupak but more recently began pushing him away and keeping to herself, indicating that the birth was close, the safari said in a statement.

She was secluded in a fenced-off area in the northern area of the safari known as “the maternity ward.” A day later, she gave birth to the calf, which weighs around 50 kilograms (110 lbs).

The newcomer does not yet have a horn, but the iconic protrusion is expected to begin growing in the coming weeks, becoming a recognizable horn after a year or so.

A southern white rhino calf born at the Ramat Gan safari, September 16, 2018. (Elad Hershkowitz/Ramat Gan Safari)

Beyond the simple pleasure of a successful birth, the development is an important step toward preserving the white rhinoceros — also known as the square-lipped rhinoceros — which is in danger of extinction due to hunting. The animal’s horn is much sought after for traditional medicines due to lingering beliefs that it improves male prowess and can cure diseases.

So great is the demand that on the black market, rhino horn is worth twice as much as gold, the safari said.

The threat to the world’s rhino population was highlighted when in May the last male northern white rhino died, leaving only two females of the species, which is closely related to the rhinos kept in Israel.

Last year, 1,028 rhinos were hunted in South Africa alone, according to the statement.

The safari participates in a European breeding program that includes 78 zoos. Israel’s herd, at 13 rhinos, is the largest in the program and the country is a leader in breeding — an accomplishment attributed to the similarity between Israel’s climate and that of the species’ natural habitat in the African wilderness.

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