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SOS Rhino : In the News : BORN BRAWNY


  Thu, Oct. 16, 2003
A white rhino calf, the first born at the Fort Worth Zoo, is already as big as many men and too feisty to stand still on the scales.
By Chris Vaughn
Star-Telegram Staff Writer

Cuddly may come to mind with this 3-day-old baby, but that's only because the newborn is standing beneath his 5,000-pound mother.

Up close, little Bakari is a decidedly feistier, 135-pound bundle of thick hide and budding horns.

"We had to estimate his weight," said Ron Surratt, mammal curator at the Fort Worth Zoo. "We couldn't hold him on the scale."

Surratt could hardly mind because Sunday's birth of the white rhinoceros was a shot of good news for zoo employees, who three weeks ago had to euthanize a premature elephant whose birth was even more eagerly awaited. "You never mind it when they're born real strong," he said.

Edith, experienced mother that she is, gave birth perfectly when the zoo was dark and closed. Instantly, she became the first white rhino mother ever at the zoo and one of only five nationwide in the last year.

"We've always had pairs, but we've never been lucky," Surratt said.

Technically, though, the zoo can take credit only for the birth, not the breeding, for, in senior zookeeper Jeanne Jacobsen's words, the mother came "ready-mixed."

Edith, nine months pregnant, and her 24-year-old offspring, Gloria, moved from Florida to Fort Worth in April when the three white rhinos at the Fort Worth Zoo relocated to Indianapolis.

That kind of swapping for breeding is fairly common among zoos that participate in a species survival plan for the white rhinos. In about two years, Bakari will move on, too, Surratt said.

"He's already starting to play," she said. "When she lays down, he's charging her."

White rhinos -- which aren't really white -- were once endangered in their native area of southern Africa.

But in recent decades, they have rebounded, particularly in South Africa, and are now listed as threatened.

Chris Vaughn, (817) 390-7547