CUMBERLAND, Ohio (WCMH) — A baby rhino born at The Wilds holds in his tiny mushroom-like feet the future of his species.
The southern white rhinoceros calf born on Nov. 17 is bonding well with his mother, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium announced Wednesday. His birth brings The Wilds’ white rhino count to 19 at a time when the species’ survival hangs precariously in the balance between conservation and poaching.
“Each new rhino birth is a cause for celebration, especially as these species continue to face many challenges in their native ranges,” said Joe Smith, vice president of The Wilds, in a press release. “We are proud of our successful breeding program while understanding there’s still much work to be done to help support rhino conservation.”
The baby, who is still unnamed, is his mother Kali’s second calf since she was born at The Wilds in 2013. The Animal Management team said that Kali and her baby are resting well in a maternity stall. Like many children, Kali’s calf constantly seeks her attention, jumping in front of her and headbutting her when he feels neglected.
The Wilds is the only facility outside of Africa home to five generations of rhinos born in captivity, according to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Species conservation remains an important mission for the organization.
According to the press release, conservation began in earnest after the beginning of the 20th century, when the number of white rhinos in the wild fell to 50 to 200. All five remaining species of rhino in Africa and Asia — the white, black, greater one-horned, Javan and Sumatran — are killed by poachers for their horns. Every 10 hours, a rhino is killed by poachers, according to the International Rhino Foundation.
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium said it has spent more than $228,000 on rhino conservation efforts since 2017, including by supporting rhino field parks in India, Rwanda and Nepal. Since 2021, The Wilds has teamed up with five research facilities, including one at the Cincinnati Zoo, to develop the American Institute of Rhinoceros Science, dedicated to developing the best conservation practices outside of rhinos’ natural habitats.
White rhinos can grow to heights of 6 feet at their shoulder and weigh more than two tons. The species is currently being reintroduced to southern and eastern parts of Africa. But for now, Kali’s calf is just a fraction of his mother’s size — with a spunk that’s larger than life.