Rare baby white rhino first to be born at Africa Alive zoo in Suffolk

A baby white rhino born at the African Alive zoo in Lowestoft, Suffolk. Credit: The Zoological Society
A baby white rhino born at the African Alive zoo in Lowestoft, Suffolk. Credit: Zoological Society of East Anglia

A baby white rhino born at a zoo has been hailed as a "little miracle" by its proud keepers.

The southern white rhino calf was born to mother Njiri, aged nine, and 13-year-old father Zimba at Africa Alive near Lowestoft, Suffolk, on Saturday.

Keepers do not yet know if the calf is male or female and it has yet to be named.

The species was previously hunted to near extinction but the success of conservation has seen numbers grow to around 18,000 in protected areas and private game reserves in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Kenya.

With the risk from poaching increasing, they are now classed as near threatened in the wild.

Graeme Williamson, head of living collections at Africa Alive, said: "We are absolutely thrilled about our new arrival at Africa Alive.

"This is the first time white rhinos have ever been bred at Africa Alive, so the birth of this calf truly is a little miracle.

"Njiri and her baby are doing well but she is a first-time mum and we are monitoring her closely."

First southern white rhino born at Africa Alive zoo in Lowestoft, Suffolk. The baby rhino with mum Njiri. Credit: Zoological Society of East Anglia

In the wild, pregnant white rhinos leave their group - known as a crash - shortly before giving birth and stay apart for a few days afterward.

To replicate that natural behaviour, the zoo has set up a "birthing suite" for Njiri away from the other rhinos which is being monitored through CCTV cameras.

Njiri and Zimba were identified as being genetically compatible mates by The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) breeding programme which aims to conserve the population of threatened animals.

The zoo is home to four southern white rhinos - three females and one male - and this is the first time a calf has been born at the park as part of the European Breeding Programme for this species.

Claudia Roberts, chief executive at the Zoological Society of East Anglia, which runs the zoo, said: "This is a very exciting step forward in the conservation of this species and we are over the moon to have our first white rhino calf born at Africa Alive.

"Our commitment to conservation remains at the forefront of everything we do here at ZSEA with many exciting conservation projects happening across both of our zoos, including our most recent partnership with Tusk - a prolific African wildlife conservation charity."

The rhino house is currently closed to allow the rare southern white rhino calf to bond with its mother but will be opened at various intervals over the coming days to allow visitors a first glimpse of the new calf.

White rhinos typically weigh between 40kg (6st 4lbs) and 60kg (9st 6lbs) at birth.

They are typically able to stand just an hour after birth, immediately attempting to suckle on their mother.