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SOS Rhino : In the News : Archived News : February 2001 : Endangered rhino gives birth to rare black calf

Endangered rhino gives birth to rare black calf

By Scott Huddleston
Chattanooga Times
February 8, 2001

SAN ANTONIO - A rare black rhinoceros cuddled with her mother at the San Antonio Zoo, a week after zoo officials celebrated the birth of the female.

The calf, one of the few black rhinos in existence, weighed 60 pounds at birth -- a little on the small side -- but has been in good health since she was born Jan. 26.

The calf is the first born to its mother, Sababu, and father, Herbie, and one of only about 110 black rhinos, an endangered species, in captivity at accredited zoos. In the past 20 years, the number of black rhinos roaming wild in eastern and southern Africa has fallen from 65,000 to 2,400.

The birth represents a step forward in preserving a diverse gene pool that could help the species survive, said Steve McCusker, the zoo executive director.

Still, the future of the species will ultimately depend on development and enforcement of laws aimed at stopping habitat destruction and illegal hunting in South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe and other African nations, he said.

Though their horns are not as coveted by poachers as those of the estimated 7,000 white rhinos roaming in herds in Africa, black rhinos are more solitary and vulnerable to extinction.

The horns, used mostly as decorative items such as dagger handles, as well as an aphrodisiac or a cure for influenza, are often sold in the Asian black market and considered more valuable than gold, McCusker said. He estimated that fewer than 100 black rhinos have been born in captivity.

"All the zoos in the world aren't going to save them," he said. "What's going to save them is people caring."

The calf was named Timu Mbano, Swahili for "team effort," or Timu for short, because zoo officials had to carefully monitor her mother's 475-day gestation. Using a video camera, they kept 24-hour watch the last nine days of the pregnancy. Timu could weigh up to 3,000 pounds and be able to run up to 35 mph, when fully grown.

Both the pregnancy and the birth went smoothly, zoo officials said.

The calf, which began taking her mother's milk right away, will probably start gnawing on hay in a few weeks while moving toward a vegetarian diet that is normal for rhinos, McCusker said.



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