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Animal news
December 23, 2017

black rhino born: an historic moment

Update: The zookeepers named the newborn calf Mara, after the river in Tanzania. 

December 23rd, 2017 black rhino Naima gave birth to a daughter.

This newborn is the second ever black rhino calf born in the Netherlands after 57 years, an historic moment. There has only been one other black rhino birth in the Netherlands and that also occurred in Rotterdam Zoo back in 1960. She was called Laura. When she grew up, Laura was transferred to Dublin Zoo. After her father died Rotterdam Zoo stopped keeping Black rhinos. It took more than 50 years before black rhinos were again seen in Rotterdam.

What lead up to this moment?

Black rhinos returned to Rotterdam Zoo in 2013 after a break of more than 50 years. The young Naima and the young male, Vungu, were brought to the then recently restored pachyderm wing of the Rivierahal. They were joined later by the older female, Wanda. At that time none of the three had ever bred. Naturally Rotterdam Zoo did everything possible to change this. In the wild black rhinos are critically endangered as the result of poaching for their valuable horns. There are used in traditional medicine or kept as a status symbol. As a result their numbers have drastically declined.

Black rhinos are known for being temperamental. They are a solitary species that only tolerate each other when the females are in heat. Naima and Vungu luckily clicked with each other. Mating proceeded smoothly. Noses pressed together, impressing each other by sniffing urine and dung the actual mating lasted more than three quarters of an hour. A successful encounter as demonstrated by the hormone levels in the blood.

Pregnancy lasts around 15 1/2 months. You can follow the calf and her mom Naima via the webcams in the nursery or via the free Blijdorp App.

Rotterdam Zoo also helps to protect these rhinos in the wild by supporting the Rhino Dog Squad run by Save the Rhino. This project uses specially trained dogs to find and capture poachers.