Rhino birth catches zookeepers off guard
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Born to run

Rhino birth catches zookeepers off guard

Keren Peles has second calf at Ramat Gan Safari; newborn female soon shows she has the same free spirit as her mother

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

The Ramat Gan Safari announced Monday that one of its rhinoceroses had given birth to a healthy female calf and, judging by her behavior so far, the newborn had inherited her mother’s adventurous spirit.

The calf, who has yet to be named, and her mother, rhino Keren Peles, were both doing well, the Zoological Center Tel Aviv-Ramat Gan said in a statement.

On December 30, heavily pregnant Keren Peles started showing indications she was close to going into labor when she began pushing away her other offspring, Kipenzi (Swahili for Beloved), who was born three and a half years ago.

Keepers aimed to cordon Keren Peles off in a private section where she could give birth without interference from the rest of the rhino herd and other animals in her enclosure, but before they could put the plan into action, she went ahead and produced a healthy young calf.

Rhino Keren Peles and her newborn calf at the Ramat Gan Safari, January 2019. (Sagi Tabachnick/Ramat Gan Safari)

In order to give her time to herself and enable her to care for the newborn, keepers quickly directed Keren Peles to the prepared section, and there the pair stayed for three weeks, in sight of, but out of touch with, the rhino herd.

Although the safari planned to keep mother and daughter in their private boudoir for another month or two, last Thursday the young calf decided to take matters into her own hooves and squeezed through the surrounding fence into the main enclosure, the safari said.

The escape had its dangers. As the calf scampered about, she came across one of the male rhinos, Atari, who began pushing her around, all under the gaze of helpless Keren Peles.

Keepers immediately released the mother from the closed section and she soon stepped in to defend her daughter and keep Atari at bay.

Since then things have settled down and the new arrival is adapting to being part of the herd.

The rhinos on the run from Ramat Gan safari on January 1, 2015, with a keeper in hot pursuit (screen capture: Channel 2)

Keren Peles also has a reputation for wandering out of bounds. She made headlines in 2015 when, along with two other rhinos, she slipped out of a gate and into the street while a zookeeper dozed off. They were quickly returned to the safari, but not before startling a few passing joggers.

Keepers have begun putting together a list of possible names for the newborn. All of the candidates are in the Swahili language and share the first letter K, in common with Keren Peles.

The white rhinoceros, also known as the square-lipped rhinoceros, is in danger of extinction. Some 78 zoos are taking part in a European breeding project that so far numbers 301 rhinos. The Ramat Gan Safari has a larger herd than any in Europe and so far there have been 31 white rhinos born at the park, the safari said.

“The safari is the leading zoo in Europe for breeding rhinos and each birth like this is a sensation and great source of pride,” the safari said in the statement. “This is an animal which is in danger of extinction and breeding rhinos is especially important.”

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