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SOS Rhino : In the News : Baby white rhino delights Hamilton zookeepers
 

Baby white rhino delights Hamilton zookeepers

  19.02.2004
By ELIZABETH BINNING

There had been suspicions and a few telltale signs but the arrival of a baby white rhino still came as a bit of a surprise when his little frame entered the world on Tuesday night.

The youngster was born in the comforts of a hay-laden stall at the Hamilton Zoo, surprising most of staff who did not even realise that his mother Caballe had been pregnant for the past 16 months.

Zoo keeper Catherine Nicholas, who was yesterday monitoring the baby's progress, said the endangered species usually gave birth every 3-4 years.

Because Caballe had her first calf two years ago staff had not been expecting her to get pregnant again for a while.

It was only a couple of weeks ago, when the 10-year-old's body really starting changing, that staff suspected she was pregnant again - but they didn't know when her baby was due.

"I think we always had a little suspicion but no confirmation," said Mrs Nicholas.

To ensure her safety staff separated Caballe from her companions and other calf so that she would be alone for the birth when it did eventuate.

On Tuesday night, when Caballe lost her appetite, keepers knew the big moment was getting close.

At 8.20pm her second baby, which weighs about 40kg and stands about 40cm tall, arrived in what Mrs Nicholas said was a relatively easy birth.

While excited keepers were aware of the night-time birth, they had to wait until yesterday morning for a glimpse of their newest arrival.

Other staff members also rushed to the stall to have a quick peak throughout the morning.

Zoo administration manager Jill Prew said Caballe's second birth was considered a huge success, not only for Hamilton Zoo but also for the captive breeding programme.

The white rhino was born in South Africa's Kruger National Park and imported along with several others in 1999 as part of a captive breeding programme.

She is the only rhino in New Zealand from the programme to have conceived and delivered two calves in captivity.

Mrs Nicholas said the baby, who was yesterday finding his legs, was doing really well.

"He's walking around with a little trot so that's pretty good. He's got a strong suckle and he's sleeping well."